Like “lemonade in a leaf,” sorrel’s tart and tangy flavor brightens this simple combination of sorrel fettucine dressed with sorrel pesto. Featuring this perennial herb in both the pasta and the pesto delivers a double dose of spring.
Sorrel’s acidic flavor makes this European plant a sought after source of vitamin C, and is also known to aid digestion. When considering sorrel, the younger leaves are best used fresh, while the older ones are more acidic and better suited to cooking, which tames its bite. Culinary uses include tossed on its own as a salad, whisked into a vinaigrette, pureed into a creamy sauce, or cooked into a French-style soup. Smaller leaves may be used whole; the tough stems of larger ones can be removed much as one would with spinach, by folding the leave in half lengthwise and pulling the stem away.
Incorporating sorrel into a batch of homemade pasta and pesto takes advantage of its early season freshness. We had duck eggs on hand for the pasta dough, and their richness plays off the sprightliness of the sorrel. When making pasta, chicken and duck eggs may be used interchangeably, however, duck eggs, with their larger yolk, contain less water and may require an extra splash to compensate.
For the pasta dough, we like using 10 ounces of flour to 2 eggs, a proportion adapted from Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand. We find it’s a large enough batch to make the effort worthwhile, serving 4 amply or 2 with leftovers, yet manageable enough to turn homemade pasta into an everyday affair. This recipe takes easily to experimenting with different flours, just substitute from 2 to 5 ounces of the white.
10 ounces all-purpose or 00 flour
2 chicken or duck eggs, about 4 ounces, lightly beaten
½ cup minced sorrel
1 tablespoon water, more if necessary
– Place the flour on the counter or in a bowl, and make a well in the center. Add the herbs and eggs to the well, and stir to combine. Drizzle the water over the mixture and stir again until it forms a shaggy mass. Mix the dough until it feels tacky and fully incorporated, then, if using a bowl, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough loses its surface moisture, is a uniform color, and springs back when depressed, about 4 to 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a small bowl, and let it rest for at least 1 hour before rolling and cutting. Makes 4 portions.
One of the characteristics of sorrel is that it becomes muted in cooking, both in flavor and color, and a pesto helps retain as much of its vibrancy as possible. While the sorrel fettucine and sorrel pesto can be served on their own, we like the delicious affect of layered flavors they create when tossed together.
1 clove garlic or 2 stalks green garlic, chopped into 1 inch lengths
⅓ cup pine nuts or walnuts
1 cup chopped sorrel leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
– Place garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, then add the nuts and repeat pulsing until well ground. Add the sorrel, lemon juice, olive oil and salt, and pulse until it forms a creamy consistency. Transfer the pesto to a bowl, and stir in the cheese. Adjust seasonings to taste. Best served fresh; may be refrigerated several days.