John and Catherine Pawson's Nettle Risotto with Wild Garlic Pesto

The minimalist architectural designer and interior designer wife share one of their favorite recipes, inspired by a dish at chef Skye Gyngell’s Spring restaurant.

Nettle Risotto 


1.5 kg / 31⁄4 lb nettles, washed with care in 2–3 changes of cold water
2.5 litres / 841⁄2 fl oz (101⁄2 cups) vegetable or chicken stock (broth)
100 g / 31⁄2 oz (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, half of it cold and cubed
2 shallots, finely chopped
400 g / 14 oz (2 cups plus
2 tablespoons) carnaroli risotto rice
125 ml / 41⁄4 fl oz (1⁄2 cup) dry white wine
90 g / 31⁄4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra to serve
sea salt and black pepper
wild garlic pesto, to serve

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20–25 minutes
Serves: 4

How To Make

  1. This recipe is based on the nettle risotto I tasted at Skye Gyngell’s wonderful restaurant, Spring. Who would have guessed that the nettle, a most vicious weed, could make such a bright and tasty dish? Make sure to forage the nettles in early spring when the leaves are young and tender. Pick away from roadsides, wear gloves, and use scissors to avoid being stung. Nettles can also be made into a highly nutritious soup.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the nettles and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain, but retain a little of the cooking water. Refresh in iced water to stop cooking and ensure they retain their vibrant color. Drain again and process in a food processor or blender with a little cooking water until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Bring the stock (broth) to the boil in a saucepan, reduce the heat and maintain at a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a heavy sauté pan (keep the cubed butter for finishing the risotto). Add the chopped shallots and cook gently for about 5 minutes, or until softened, but not browned. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated in the butter. Pour in the wine and let it reduce right down. Start to add the warm stock, a ladle or two at a time, stirring gently as the stock is absorbed by the rice. Continue stirring and adding stock for about 15 minutes, then stir in the blended nettles. Keep adding the stock for a few more minutes until the rice is cooked — try a little bit, it should be firm to the bite.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat; cover and leave for a minute; remove the lid and stir in the cubed, cold butter, and grated cheese. Season to taste and serve straight away with a small bowl of pesto and another of extra grated Parmesan.
Wild Garlic Pesto


130 g / 41⁄2 oz wild garlic leaves, (ramps) washed thoroughly
50 g / 2 oz (1⁄3 cup) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
50 g / 2 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 clove garlic
130 ml / 41⁄2 fl oz (1⁄2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper

How To Make

  1. This recipe makes more pesto than you need for this instance, but it can be kept in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a month. It is a delicious accompaniment to pasta, spring lamb, grilled wild salmon and risotto, or swirled through a soup. I have used hazelnuts, but pine nuts or pumpkin seeds work just as well.
  2. Put the wild garlic leaves (ramps) into a food processor with the hazelnuts, Parmesan and garlic, and pulse until the mixture forms a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse again until you have a coarse pesto. Taste and season with lemon juice and salt and pepper as necessary. Spoon it into a sterilized 350-g / 12-oz jar and set aside.

Take a closer look at at John and Catherine Pawson’s family meal traditions at their sprawling 1610 farm estate in The Cotswolds in our Kitchen Creative column, produced in partnership with Gaggenau.

John and Catherine Pawson at their English country estate in the Cotswolds. (RIGHT) The couple's new cookbook, Home Farm Cooking (Phaidon).
A kitchen housed inside of a barn at the Pawsons' restored farmstead.
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