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Ramp pesto is my first move the minute these fleeting delicacies appear in the local shops. Our favorite version also incorporates basil and spinach for a well-rounded, big-batch recipe. (Don’t have ramps but want to make pesto? We’ve got you.)

ramp pesto in a small pitcher with ramp leaves, a lemon, and pine nuts
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Why we love this recipe

Ramps can (and should!) be grilled, sautéed, pickled, and so much more. But trust me: you’ll want to try this bright, spicy, and perfectly balanced ramp pesto before you even think about cooking them. 

Our version is:

  • Well-rounded, with basil and baby spinach mellowing the ramps a bit
  • Bright and lemony
  • Vibrant green for days and days
  • Creamy and super-savory

I first published this recipe here in 2016. I’ve updated the post for clarity and tweaked the recipe a bit, but in essence it remains the same.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Buying ramp leaves rather than whole ramps with the bulbs still attached is the best way to ensure they’ve been harvested sustainably. That said, you can 100% use either version in this recipe.
  • A little bit of baby spinach magically helps the pesto retain its vibrant green color. Along with basil, it also helps balance the flavors.
  • Use pecorinoparmesan or a combination. Pecorino (made with sheep’s milk) is a little bit saltier and tangier, while parmesan is a bit sweeter. They both work very well in pesto.

How to make it

Here’s what you’ll do to make a perfect batch of ramp pesto with basil and spinach. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. When they’ve cooled a bit, add them to a food processor along with the sliced ramps, basil leaves, baby spinach, salt, and lemon juice.
  2. Pulse it together, scraping down the sides as necessary, until chopped into small pieces.
  3. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil.
  4. Add the cheese and pulse to combine or stir in with a spoon.
ramp pesto in a food processor

Expert tips and FAQs

What the heck are ramps?

In short, they’re the talk of the town for food lovers in April and May. This allium, sometimes called wild leeks, has an elegant shape and packs a powerful garlicky, oniony punch.

Ramps — usually foraged rather than cultivated —are among the first produce to arrive at early-season farmers’ markets full of crafts, baked goods and preserves.

All of these characteristics, plus a mild hysteria of trendiness, have made them a hot commodity many springs running.

Got any variations?

Don’t I always? If pine nuts are hard to come by, you can use toasted walnuts or pecans, almonds, or even sunflower seeds or pepitas.

To change up the balance of flavors, you can use more ramps and less spinach.

You can add more olive oil for a saucier consistency.

Or try making a smaller batch in a mortar and pestle, which will leave the ingredients more roughly chopped. It’s a totally different experience from the exact same ingredients.

Can I make this recipe in advance? Can I freeze it?

Yes, yes, yes.

Due to its lemony vibe and top-secret spinach, this pesto will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Place it into a container, smooth out the top with a spatula, and pour a thin layer of olive oil overtop before positioning the lid.

Freeze in pint-size deli containers or in ice cube trays for smaller portions. If using ice cube trays, transfer to an airtight container once frozen solid.

If you end up with a ton of ramps, this is a great way. to preserve them for up to a year.

How to serve it

You can use ramp pesto anywhere you’d use the basil version. A few of our favorites:

  • Stir it into a piping hot bowl of pasta
  • Slather it onto a grilled chicken sandwich
  • Tuck a few spoonfuls into an omelet

More favorite ramp recipes

ramp pesto in a small pitcher with ramp leaves, a lemon, and pine nuts

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ramp pesto in a small pitcher with ramp leaves, a lemon, and pine nuts
5 from 7 votes

Ramp Pesto with Basil and Spinach

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Ramp pesto is my first move the minute these fleeting delicacies appear in the local shops. Our favorite version also incorporates basil and spinach for a well-rounded, big-batch recipe.
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 6
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Ingredients 

  • ½ cup (60 grams) pine nuts
  • 5 ounces 142 grams/about 3 cups sliced and packed ramps
  • 1 ½ ounces 43 grams/2 gently packed cups basil leaves
  • 1 gently packed cup baby spinach leaves, 1 1/4 ounces
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons/(45 ml)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup 2 ounces/(57 grams) grated pecorino cheese

Instructions 

  • Place the pine nuts in a small, dry pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly browned in spots, stirring or tossing in the pan occasionally, about five minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Let cool slightly.
  • Pour toasted pine nuts into a standard (10-ish cup) food processor fitted with the blade.
  • Add ramps, basil, spinach, salt, and lemon juice to the food processor.
  • Pulse until finely chopped, stopping to encourage ingredients through the blade and scrape down the sides as necessary.
  • With the machine running, pour in the olive oil.
  • Add cheese and pulse to incorporate or stir in with a spoon.

Notes

  1. Buying ramp leaves rather than whole ramps with the bulbs still attached is the best way to ensure they’ve been harvested sustainably. That said, you can 100% use either version in this recipe. If using whole ramps, trim any roots and chop the bulbs, stems and leaves into bite-sized pieces
  2. A little bit of baby spinach magically helps the pesto retain its vibrant green color. Along with basil, it also helps balance the flavors. Weigh the basil leaves after picking them off the stems.
  3. Use pecorino, parmesan or a combination. Pecorino (made with sheep’s milk) is a little bit saltier and tangier, while parmesan is a bit sweeter. They both work very well in pesto.
  4. Variations: If pine nuts are hard to come by, you can use toasted walnuts or pecans, almonds, or even sunflower seeds or pepitas. // To change up the balance of flavors, you can use more ramps and less spinach. // You can add more olive oil for a saucier consistency. // Or try making a smaller batch in a mortar and pestle, which will leave the ingredients more roughly chopped. It’s a totally different experience from the exact same ingredients.
  5. Due to its lemony vibe and top-secret spinach, this pesto will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Place it into a container, smooth out the top with a spatula, and pour a thin layer of olive oil overtop before positioning the lid.
  6. Freeze in pint-size deli containers or in ice cube trays for smaller portions. If using ice cube trays, transfer to an airtight container once frozen solid. If you end up with a ton of ramps, this is a great way to preserve them for up to a year.
  7. Serving suggestions: Stir it into a piping hot bowl of past. Slather it onto a grilled chicken sandwich. Tuck some into an omelet. Or use it anywhere you’d use basil pesto.
I first published this recipe here in 2016. I’ve updated the post for clarity and tweaked the recipe a bit, but in essence it remains the same.

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcal, Carbohydrates: 6.7g, Protein: 6.4g, Fat: 19.1g, Fiber: 1.7g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sauces and Condiments
Cuisine: Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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Subscribe to Umami Girl's email updates, and follow along on Instagram.
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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

5 from 7 votes (7 ratings without comment)

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