Ramp Pesto Pasta

Ramp Pesto with Tagliatelle Recipe

The winters may be callously cold, and the summers disagreeably humid, but for about two weeks each year, New York has an amazing spring that’s unparalleled anywhere else in the world. For me, part of what makes NYC’s spring so memorable are the pastel green ramps (wild leeks) that start popping up in parks around the city. The satiny strokes of colour emerge from the forest floor as though they were painted onto the last years brown detritus by a painter’s brush.

Because ramps are highly perishable, most grocery stores don’t carry them, and unless you live in an area where they grow, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a chance to wrap your tastebuds around this magnificent member of the onion family. Part of the hype may be the regional and seasonal constraints, but unlike other seasonal delicacies like fiddleheads, ramps burst at the seams with flavour. A flavour that can best be described as something in between green garlic and sweet onions.

Fresh spring ramps (wild leeks)

So where can you find them? If you’re in the US, there are a couple websites sell them by the pound, and I’ve even seen them show up on eBay from time to time. But if happen to live in the north east, you can just go find your nearest wooded parkland and hunt for them. If you’re lucky, you’ll find fields of the tulip shaped leaves poking up through the forrest floor. Before you go run off ramp hunting though, make sure you read up on the native plants in your area, there are many plants (some toxic) with similar looking leaves. If in doubt, use your nose. When you crush the ramp leaves between your fingers, they should smell strongly of garlic.

I led a foraging expedition out into the wilds of Yonkers over the weekend, and due to the wet winter and early onset of spring weather, the ramp population was particularly abundant this year. We ended up having a good deal of leftover greens, which we divided amongst ourselves. To offset the gout inducing meat binge we had on Saturday, I decided to go with something fresh and light: Ramp Pesto with home made tagliatelle.

Pork belly on top of ramp pesto tagliatelle

It’s even easier than a more traditional basil pesto because get get the green and the garlic from 1 ingredient, the ramps. Some toasted pine nuts went in to play up that forest flavour, and I threw in small hunk of ricotta insalata for some added umami. Serving the pasta with lemon wedges rather than adding it directly to the pesto keeps the ramps from loosing their verdant colour and adds a touch of brightness to the intense green and garlicky pasta. I did end up adding a few chunks of left over braised pork belly to finish the dish, but it would be just as good without the meat.

Ramp Pesto Pasta

10 ramps roughly chopped
1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C toasted pine nuts
1 oz ricotta insalata
1/2 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste

lemon wedges for serving

16 oz of your favourite pasta cooked according to package directions

Add the ramps, olive oil, pine nuts, ricotta kosher salt and pepper to a blender or food processor. Blitz until there are no big chunks remaining, but there should still be some texture to the pesto (i.e. you don’t want to puree it).

Boil the pasta according to the package directions in salted water until just al dente. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and add the pesto. Toss to coat evenly, adding pasta water as needed if it starts sticking together.

Plate and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

  • http://www.highlowfooddrink.com/ Andrea @ High/Low

    I agree with you – I love this time of year for ramps. Your vibrant green ramp pesto looks amazing!

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    I have never seen ramps in the NW, but I gotta say that is the PURDIEST pasta I have ever seen! Verdant green spring in a bowl, right there.

  • thelacquerspoon

    What a springtime treat! So-o-o beautiful!!

  • http://bunkycooks.com/ bunkycooks

    I love the bright green color from the ramps. I never heard of them until your post! I wonder if they are available anywhere in the South.

  • http://korasoi.blogspot.com Sanjana @ KO Rasoi

    These grow abundantly along riverbanks in the UK so I'm sure I could get my hands on some for this recipe- I love the striking picture. Just beautiful!

  • joannova

    I'm going to have to be more alert when I go to the green market this weekend and look for ramps. You certainly made good use of them.

  • http://www.thenervouscook.com The Nevous Cook

    Wow, is that ever a lovely color!

  • http://fivestarfoodie.com 5 Star Foodie

    Such a beautiful pasta with ramp pesto! I haven't seen ramps in my supermarket yet, hopefully they'll arrive soon!

  • Ambitious

    It looks delicious! :) I love the addition of pine nuts!

  • innbrooklyn

    Picked up some gorgeous ramps at the union sq farmers market today: not as fun as foraging for them but they'll taste fabulous anyway: i look forward to them all year. I am also going to pickle some this season I think!

  • http://www.chichoskitchen.blogspot.com Cherine

    Such a gorgeous pasta dish!!

  • valgal123

    Wow, that is so bright and beautiful! I bet its delicious!

  • http://kitchensidecar.com katiek

    I'm thinking a sort of ramp pesto with poached chicken. hainan gai fan style… It would be so good! Or some good chinese “ramp” pancakes.

  • norecipes

    Ahhh that sounds amazing. I'm soooo doing that this weekend.

  • http://food.lizsteinberg.com Liz@Cafe Liz

    I love the vibrant green of your pasta, did you make your pasta with ramps as well, or is all the color from the pesto?

    No ramps over here, will just have to admire from afar.

  • norecipes

    The pasta was plain pasta, but it's possible to blanche and puree the
    ramps and incorporate them into the pasta dough.

  • claudialynn

    Sounds so good. I love all the alternate pestos. We don't have ramp here, but I'll be making a kale one.

  • carolynjung

    I was just watching David Chang cooking mussels and ramps on “Letterman.'' He was saying how ramps are one of the few things that NY grows well. I'm going to have to scour my farmers markets on the West Coast to see if I can find some because I am totally digging the green of your glorious pasta.

  • norecipes

    I don't think I ever saw them when I lived out there. There are a
    couple of websites you can order them by the pound.

  • http://www.curtisbarnard.com/blog Curtis

    Looks delicious! Although I might have to disagree about NYC having the best spring, it's pretty damn nice over here in Oregon too. 😀

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    We don't get ramps here, or at least I've never seen any around the supermarkets or farmers' markets which is a real shame because I do want to try it so bad! I love the colour. Beautiful plate of pasta.

  • http://www.honeyandjam.com Hannah

    Yes! I love ramps. This looks terrific.

  • http://www.inpraiseofleftovers.com The Leftoverist

    Yum! I envy your foraging fun.

  • http://baconandrhubarb.blogspot.com Rachel

    I was thinking if I ever find ramps, I would probably make a pesto from them, so this would be a great guide to how I should do it.

    I think we have had an extraordinary spring this year. Well over 2 weeks. I keep waiting for that surprise snowstorm, or else it's going to rain in the next few days and not stop until July like it did last year.

  • http://www.culinary-studio.com Eddie@CulinaryStudio

    Did you add all of the ramp bulbs to the pesto? I love ramp pesto, but have found that it is too strong for my taste with all of the bulbs added raw. I've tried pan-roasting the bulbs prior to adding them to the pesto or just adding a couple of the bulbs, and both methods seem to do a good job of keeping some of the spiciness, but not going overboard.

  • norecipes

    Yep, added the bulbs whole. I tend to like a lot of garlic in my pesto
    so it's worked fine for me, but you could go without them if you like
    it milder. Also, if you add the pesto to the pasta when it's very hot,
    it partially cooks it which also takes some of the edge off.

  • http://awhiskandaspoon.com/ steph (whisk/spoon)

    thanks for the recipe. i'm making this tonight, and i know it'll be great!

  • jimrichards3

    Nice to learn that ramps can be found in urban areas such as NYC. That was quite a surprise. The Ramp Pesto recipe was very well put together, and the whole piece was very satisfying. Thanks!!

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  • Dan Gerson

    This was excellent!! I swapped walnuts in for pine nuts, the dish came out perfect. I might have to try and forage for more in Yonkers. Thanks!

  • Erica G

    Yum!!! Mine wasn’t as bright green. I think I toasted the pine nuts too long but this was so good!!

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