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Tag: nepitella

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

All that blogging about nepitella made me hungry and so for dinner tonight, I whipped up this tasty dish with ingredients I had on hand. If you don’t have nepitella, you’re forgiven this time, and can substitute a mixture of basil and mint. So what is nepitella? Find out here.

Nepitella plant
(Nepitella is in the mint family and the plant looks like mint.)

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

October 16, 2018
: 30 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • One pound of spaghetti
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (a quarter of a cup should do it)
  • Button mushrooms, sliced. (About 12-16 oz.)
  • Capers (about 1 tablespoon.)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon of chopped up fresh. A little less if using dried.) (A mixture of basil and mint can be used as a substitute.)
  • A pinch of red crushed pepper
  • A half-pinch of nutmeg (this spice is powerful, use caution and add just a little. You can always add more if you desire.)
  • Garlic (one clove, sliced)
  • Butter (About a 1/2 tablespoon for taste.)
  • Parmesano (aka: parmesan) cheese (about 1/4 cup.)
  • Salt (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Boil water in a large pot. When water boils, add spaghetti.
  • Step 2 While water is boiling, cook mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with nepitella and salt.
  • Step 3 Half-way through cooking, add the red pepper to the mushrooms. Add the capers too.
  • Step 4 Cook mushrooms until well done. During the last five minutes, add the garlic (be careful not to burn). And add a half pinch of nutmeg (be careful, this spice is strong).
  • Step 5 Drain the spaghetti and put it back in the empty pot. Add the mushroom mixture and stir. Add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste and serve.
The Best Italian Herb You Never Heard Of

The Best Italian Herb You Never Heard Of

Nepitella completes the trifecta of Italian herbs that are a must-have in any Tuscan kitchen. Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. And here’s why:

A bunch of nepitella hanging to dry.
(Nepitella, drying out after being harvested.)

When I cook, I like to think about music. I often have music playing (and a glass of wine poured) but I’m not talking now about the music I’m listening to. Instead I like to think about bass notes and treble notes or low notes and high notes.

Different flavors elicit different types of notes. Example: salt would be a high note and black pepper would be a low note or bass note. When cooking a red sauce, I often strive to have the flavors balanced between high and low. And adding dried oregano pushes the sauce into the high-note territory and adding dried basil takes it down into the bass category.

Mookie the cat sniffs some nepitella
(Cats like the smell of nepitella. Maybe they think it’s catnip?)

Nepitella is definitely in the mint family. It has that high note of mint flavor but with a bass note added; not another high note. Therefore I believe nepitella is more like a combination of both basil and mint. But really, it’s in a class all its own.

When Should You Use Nepitella?

So what do I use it for? There are really only two things I use this herb for: mushrooms and artichokes. Whenever I use mushrooms or artichokes in a recipe, I sprinkle fresh (or in the winter, dried) nepitella on them. It is a perfect compliment.

(You can use fresh or dried nepitella but just like other herbs the dried is stronger because the flavors are more concentrated.)

Where Can You Get Nepitella?

My grandmother brought nepitella seeds back with her from Italy many years ago. She planted them in her garden in Boston and a few years later, nepitella was growing everywhere: in the cracks in the asphalt in her driveway and up against her house as well as in the cracks in the sidewalk around her house.

It is a hearty herb and a pleasant one. What it does is re-seed itself. The green leaves sprout light purple flowers that turn to seed and drop in the ground nearby. And in that way, it spreads itself.

Nepitella growing wild along a fence
(Nepitella spreads quickly and will grow just about anywhere including along this fence.)

I took a few plants from the cracks in her driveway and planted them in my backyard. And now this delightful herb grows wild around my home: just waiting for me to come pluck a handful whenever I’m cooking fried mushrooms or stuffed artichokes.

Surprisingly, nepitella is getting more popular in the States. A search on Google turned up a few articles and places on where you can order it online. Gourmet Magazine once featured a video on its site with an Italian chef explaining “why you’ve got to get this wild Italian herb into your kitchen.”  But then he went and added it to fried crabmeat. That’s a new one on me.

Try These Dishes Using Nepitella

Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti: This is a quick and easy meal you can make on a weeknight.

Closeup of spaghetti and mushrooms

 

Stuffed Artichokes: A classic Italian side dish that even the Three Stooges can make and eat.

(Photo courtesy of “Insomnia Cured Here” on Flickr)

 

Mushrooms Stuffed with Nepitella Pesto: A buttery and earthy flavor combination.

Green pesto in ramekin with stuffed mushrooms

Can’t Beet This Vegetarian Dinner

Can’t Beet This Vegetarian Dinner

Root vegetables and eggplant. A healthy, tasty delight.

After work I felt like cooking, so I went shopping and came home and whipped this up in about 90 minutes (I used left over tomato sauce). All of the recipes except for the beet recipe have been posted on Rootsliving. So, I’m posting a link to the beet salad recipe courtesy of Epicurious.

I never liked beets, but now with this recipe, I love them. And they’re good for you too.

Here’s what we ate tonight:

Eggplant Parmesan (follow the recipe here for chicken parm, but omit the sage leaf)

French Peasant Beets

Stuffed Mushrooms with Nepitella Pesto

The combination of these earthy side dishes blended together well. And a glass (or two) of my homemade zinfandel rounded out the meal.

Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto

Mushrooms Stuffed With Nepitella Pesto

It came to me in a dream: nepitella pesto. I thought that maybe I had invented the idea but a quick search online turned up one reference to it at a restaurant in New York called Osteria Morini.

There they team nepitella pesto with buffalo mozzarella on crostini or with fresh whipped ricotta topped with peas and asparagus. I’m sure that doesn’t taste bad, but what were they thinking? Everyone knows nepitella pairs perfectly with mushrooms and artichokes: everyone, in the small minority of people in this country who have heard of nepitella.

Nepitella plant

So let me let you in on the secret. Nepitella is an herb that grows wild in Tuscany (and in my driveway after I transplanted a small plant from my grandmother’s garden about 15 years ago). Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. And I wouldn’t think of cooking mushrooms or artichokes without it.

So when I was inspired to try to make nepitella pesto the logical use for it was to stuff mushrooms with it. And the result was perfect.

Stuffed mushrooms

The pesto by itself, without any cooking, was much stronger than a basil pesto: more earthy and with a sharp bite, almost spicy flavor. But when it cooked inside the mushrooms, the taste mellowed into a more mild buttery flavor: still very earthy but without the sharpness of the raw nepitella pesto.

If you’d like to try this, finding nepitella will be a challenge, but a search online revealed a few places that sell the plant. Or just stop by my driveway: there this evasive plant grows wild in cracks and along narrow dirt patches along the fence.

Nepitella Pesto (And Stuffed Mushrooms)

September 4, 2013
: 45 min

Making the pesto probably takes about 15-20 minutes; add another 20-25 minutes to make the stuffed mushrooms.

By:

Ingredients
  • Nepitella leaves (washed, about a half a cup)
  • Pignoli nuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • Garlic (4-6 cloves)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/4- 1/2 cup
  • Imported, freshly grated. Don’t use the stuff they sell in a jar
  • Or use freshly grated Romano and/or Pecorino if you’d like to save some money.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper.
  • Mushrooms
Directions
  • Step 1 Put nuts and garlic in food processor with a steel blade and process for about 15 seconds.
  • Step 2 Add nepitella leaves, salt and pepper.
  • Step 3 With processor running slowly add the olive oil until it’s completely pureed.
  • Step 4 Add cheese and process for another minute.
  • Step 5 If you don’t use it right away, put in refrigerator with plastic wrap touching the top or with a film of olive oil on top. This will prevent discoloring.
  • Step 6 To stuff mushrooms:
  • Step 7 Pull off stems, clean caps with paper towel.
  • Step 8 Put clean caps in a baking dish that has been greased with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Step 9 Spoon in nepitella pesto and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. You can serve it as is or with a shaved piece of parmesan cheese on top and/or a pignoli nut.
Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

(Above: The passing of the stuffed artichokes at the RootsLiving table on Easter Sunday.)

In the Three Stooges episode, “Sock-A-Bye-Baby,” Moe, Larry, and Curly feed a baby they find Limburger cheese, spaghetti and artichokes.

Curly calls an artichoke a smarty-choke, a party-smoke, an okey-doke, a feathered apple, and a barbed-wire pickle.

(Photo courtesy of “Insomnia Cured Here” on Flickr)

For some reason I think of this when cooking and eating them.

I recommend getting baby artichokes. They’re more tender than the bigger variety. And I always use the italian herb, nepitella. It grows wild on the RootsLiving estate, but is difficult to get outside of Italy. Instead, you could use a combination of dried basil and dried mint — or fresh for that matter, chopped up fine.

Nepitella growing wild along a fence
(Nepitella spreads quickly and will grow just about anywhere including along this fence.)

I never measure anything when making the stuffing either. Below are suggested measurements to stuff 12 artichokes. Just be sure to make enough to fill them all generously and be sure to follow the proportions below and you can’t go wrong.

Three artichokes

How to Eat an Artichoke

And if you’re like that Three Stooges’ baby and don’t know how to eat one of these babies, fret not. Here’s what you do:

  • Tear off an outer leaf. Hold the harder end between your thumb and forefinger and scrape the leaf with your front teeth. You’ll get a little bit of stuffing and a little bit of tender artichoke leaf coating too: a miraculous combination.
  • If the leaves are tough you can discard them after doing this on your plate. However, these baby artichokes are usually so tender you can eat them, whole leaf and all.

Stuffed Artichokes

April 7, 2010
: 12
: 40 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Baby artichokes (12)
  • Lemon wedge (1)
  • Bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Nepitella (or dried basil and mint) (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil (enough to drizzle over each artichoke)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut off the stem of each artichoke with an even slice, so each artichoke can stand up on its own.
  • Step 2 Peel off the top 2-4 layers of the artichokes until you get to the tender leaves. (Throw away the tough leaves.)
  • Step 3 Cut off the top of each artichoke, about 1/4 of the way down. For the small artichokes, that’s probably about 1/2 an inch or so.
  • Step 4 Using your fingers, open up each artichoke like a flower so there’s room to spoon in the stuffing between the leaves. Take the lemon wedge and rub each artichoke with it. This prevents the artichoke from turning brown and also adds a little flavor.
  • Step 5 In a small bowl make the stuffing by combining the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and nepitella (or dried basil and mint), salt and pepper.
  • Step 6 Hold each artichoke over the stuffing bowl while you stuff it. Using a teaspoon, spoon in as much stuffing as you can between the leaves of each artichoke and set aside.
  • Step 7 In a small pot that can hold all of the artichokes standing up, pour in about 3/4 to 1-inch of water. Place the stuffed artichokes standing up in the pot. Drizzle a little olive oil over each artichoke.
  • Step 8 Cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes over low heat. Be sure to continuously check the pot to make sure all of the water has not evaporated. Add a little water as needed while it cooks. (These are usually served hot, but taste great cold too — even leftovers right out of the fridge.)
A Must-Have Wild Italian

A Must-Have Wild Italian

This herb grows wild in Tuscany and will grow wild in your backyard too.
This herb grows wild in Tuscany and will grow wild in your backyard too.

Nepitella completes the trifecta of Italian herbs that are a must-have in any Tuscan kitchen. You know about oregano and basil, but what is nepitella?

It’s an herb like no other and one I wouldn’t dream of living without. Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. In reality, it’s in a league by itself.

So what do you use it for and where can you get it? Find out the answers to these questions and more.

More on nepitella at AllThingsTuscan.com

And try this recipe for Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

(Photo by Mark Micheli)