Chef Michela Tartaglia’s new pasta-driven cookbook celebrates the seasons and we’re so ready to dive into a big bowl of her stinging nettle pesto pasta to welcome spring.
Inspired by tradition
Michela Tartaglia was born and raised in Italy, where cooks shop the markets daily for seasonal ingredients. It should come as no surprise that she ended up opening Pasta Casalinga in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
“If you ever need a shot of creativity, you just take a walk around,” she said during a recent phone interview. “It’s a magical place. There’s a lot of energy in that community, people who are crazy devoted to what they do.”
Judging by the collection of engaging recipes, tips and tricks shared in her highly anticipated cookbook, Pasta for All Seasons: Dishes that Celebrate the Flavors of Italy and the Bounty of the Pacific Northwest, Tartaglia has turned those inspirational moments into some entertaining lessons.
Among the 50 recipes are these mouthwatering dishes:
- Creste di Gallo with Eggplant, ’Nduja, super sweet Tomatoes, and Ricotta Salata
- Pappardelle with Golden Chanterelles, Sausage, and Thyme
- Spaghettoni with Red Beet Pesto, Burrata, Basil, and Calabrian Chili Oil
- Tagliolini with Halibut, Asparagus, Almonds, and Sumac
Micheala Tartaglia's cookbook Pasta For All Seasons will make its debut On April 25, 2023. Her restaurant, Pasta Casalinga, is located in Seattle's historic Pike Place Market.
Michela Tartaglia via Instagram
Starting in spring
The book opens with a sense of renewal as tender greens, slender stalks of asparagus and earthy morel mushrooms begin to appear as winter turns to spring. For Tartaglia, foraging stinging nettles has become an annual ritual.
“This gorgeous region has a bounty of nettles ready to be harvested usually starting in April, when the plants are still young and tender,” she writes. “Hiking to a secret spot to forage nettles is a quintessential local activity, although it is common to find wild nettles in the backyards of many houses on the Olympic Peninsula and surrounding areas. Searching for nettles brings back memories of when I was a young kid in Italy: I used to go foraging with my nonna behind the little wine cellar we had at the farm. There were so many nettles waiting to be picked, processed, and cooked in a frittata religiously made with fresh brown eggs.”
Here’s her salute to those foraged greens (which can also be found at many farmers markets):
Gigli with Olympic Peninsula Stinging Nettle and Walnut Pesto, Ricotta Salata, and Calabrian Chili Oil
- 3 to 4 ounces young stinging nettles
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces gigli pasta
- 1/3 cup grated ricotta salata
- 2 tablespoons Calabrian chili oil
- 8 to 10 edible spring flowers
Instructions: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the meantime, put on gloves and clean the nettles, removing the stems and keeping just the leaves. Rinse the leaves, then blanch them in the boiling water for less than a minute. Cool them down under cold water or in an ice bath. When the nettles are cool, drain them, making sure to remove the excess water. In a food processor on low speed, blend the nettles, walnuts, olive oil, and Parmigiano, until the pesto is creamy but not liquefied (it should still have some texture).
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the gigli until al dente and drain. In a medium pan over medium heat, quickly sauté the pasta and pesto for a minute, adding pasta water as necessary to bind the ingredients. Plate in four bowls. Finish with the ricotta salata, a drizzle of Calabrian chili oil, and a couple of edible flowers. Enjoy the spring season on a plate.
Pasta making pro tips
In her book, Tartaglia walks aspiring and seasoned cooks through the process of turning flour and water into something sublime to be tossed with sauce. BTW … never, ever just tossed sauce on top of dry pasta, she warns. “Dry pasta is depressing.”
For pasta-making newbies, she offers this reassuring advice: “You don’t need a degree in the culinary arts to make pasta. You can always adjust with a little bit of flour or a little bit of water,” she said. “It’s not complicated. It should be fun. It’s 70 percent easier than baking.”
Once you’ve rolled or shaped those noodles, there’s a few easy ways to elevate the final dish, she said.
Invest in a quality, cold-press, single origin extra virgin olive oil, she said. And upgrade your peppercorns. “It sounds so simple, but it makes a big difference.”
Set aside some of the cooking water, which can help bring the dish together. “It’s like a glue.”
And, finally, enjoy the feast with friends and family.