Cooking from the Farmers Market: Orrechiette with Nettle-Basil Pesto & Soy-Shiraz Shiitakes

Dude, it feels like it’s been years since I’ve actually updated my precious little blog, and it’s truly been months since I made this dish, so let me type my way into making this happen again…

The titular pasta + grated air-dried Parmesan from Artisan Vegan Cheese

It’s now late Spring, and I’m happy to report that there are two specific farmers markets I’ve been obsessively frequently the past few weeks and three others I could easily add into that mix! My hauls are getting bigger, the selections are getting grander and the colors are just beginning to pop, with strawberries making their big show. The recipe I’m sharing today comes from one of the earliest markets of the season, the cozy weekly market held outside of People’s Co-Op every single Wednesday afternoon, all year long. After years of living nearby (and even closer to a New Seasons) and oddly forgetting it existed for weeks and weeks at a time, it finally became a pleasant mainstay in my life in 2012…which makes sense, because that’s when I left the office life. The market is heaped with neighborly charm and eccentricity, the co-op’s bulk soy curls, fresh juice and milkshakes at Sip, my favorite mushroom guy (what a phrase), an assortment of super duper local farm and bakery vendors, and just as fun: homemade tamales and tortillas. Plus, they offer a SNAP matching of $5, which is peachy.

Way back in early March, I picked up my annual nettles-on-a-whim, because what Northwest farmers market-frequenter hasn’t?  I’ve had them steamed, stir-fried and tinctured in the past many times before, and wanted to try something new. Just typing this out, my fingers are beginning to feel all tingly, so you probably see where I’m going with this. So, that went wrong, but the dish went right. I’d read about nettle pesto before and my attention was set. I’d also definitely heard about boiling them first…but for whatever reason, I decided I should try to de-stem a bunch of them from the get go. Hence the tingles. Sheesh, sheesh, sheesh.

Technically, this is more a pistou than pesto in execution due to my treenut woes and use of sunflower seeds, but I’m thinking it’s more pesto in concept as a lovely, thick spread and sauce.

As for those mushrooms, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with roasting every single farmers market mushroom I can get my hands on, week after week (which really means, every few days) in a hot cast iron pan with variations of whatever wine or vinegar gets my attention at the time. Notes below, and all that jazz.

Orrechiette with Nettle-Basil Pesto and Soy-Shiraz Shiitakes

Serves 2-4

Ingredients for the pasta & pesto:

  • 1/2 lb orrechiette or other desired pasta shape
  • 2 cups fresh stinging nettles > Be careful!
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or basil, or a mix
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red miso (my go to of the moment, but mellow white would also be quite lovely here)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons water, as needed
  • Somewhat optional: 1/4 toasted pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts or, if you’re like me, toasted sunflower seeds
  • extra olive oil for tossing pasta

For the mushrooms:

  • 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, brushed clean and left whole if small, halved if large
  • 1 tablespoon vegan margarine or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • heavy splash of Shiraz (aka Syrah)
  • sprig of fresh thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Blanch the nettles in a large pot of boiling water, drain and set aside Note: you can totally use the same pot for your pasta, if you have tongs around.
  3. Add the dried pasta to boiling water, and cook according to package directions, approximately 11-13 minutes.
  4. While your pasta is cooking, there are two things to do:
    • THE MUSHROOMS: Add the shiitakes to a cast iron pan, drizzle with the olive oil or spoonful of margarine, and roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, as they release their juices and roast.
    • Add the soy sauce, wine and fresh thyme, and cook an additional 5-7 minutes, removing from the oven and being careful not to over-roast.
    • THE PESTO:
    • Puree the following in a food processor or blender: the drained nettles (which should now be about 1 cup’s worth, but use whatever you get!), fresh parsley/basil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, sea salt, pepper, nuts or seeds, if using, and miso.
    • Pulse a few times, scraping down with a spatula, and then slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil, followed by a bit of water if it’s looking rather thick. It’ll cover the pasta either way, this is to make sure everything is properly distributed.
  5. Add the hot, drained pasta back to the large pot, toss with olive oil, and add the sauce, stirring well to cover all of the noodles.
  6. Plate the pasta, topped with a spoonful of mushrooms and v. Parmesan or nooch, as desired.
  7. Store any leftover pesto in the fridge and try to use within one week.


Come here, my pretty…


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