Ramps are the talk of the town for food lovers in April and May. They’re wild leeks, usually foraged rather than cultivated, have an elegant shape and pack a powerful garlicky, oniony punch. Ramps 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 ramps a hot commodity over the past few springs. That’s a good thing, because garlic breath requires community buy-in. You need a critical mass to make it okay. And while ramps can be grilled, sautéed, pickled, and so on, you’ll want to try this bright and spicy ramp pesto recipe before you even think about cooking them.
My favorite way to make ramp pesto is to round out both the flavor and the sheer volume of the thing with basil and baby spinach leaves. The spinach also magically keeps the pesto bright green for days and days in the fridge. My favorite way to *eat* ramp pesto is every way you can think of, be it spoon-to-mouth, stirred into a piping hot bowl of spaghetti, or tucked inside a basic omelet.
I’m headed outside to enjoy the rest of the long weekend. Hope you’ll do the same, preferably with pesto.
Talk to you soon.
Ramp Pesto Recipe with Basil and Spinach
This recipe makes a bright and spicy pesto, so either you'll think a little goes a long way or, if you're like me, you'll have to stop yourself from eating the whole batch straight from the bowl of the food processor. Assuming there's some left, toss it with hot pasta or quinoa, spoon it into a frittata, spread it on toast, dollop it onto fish, chicken or steak -- you get the idea.
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 5 ounces (about 2 gently packed cups, chopped) ramps
- 2 gently packed cups basil leaves (1 1/2 ounces)
- 2 gently packed cups baby spinach leaves (2 1/2 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Juice of 1 lemon (3-ish tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
Place the pine nuts in a small, dry pan over medium heat and 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 and pour into a food processor fitted with the blade.
Trim any roots from the ramps and chop the bulbs, stems and leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add to food processor along with basil, spinach, salt and lemon juice. Pulse until finely chopped.
With the machine running, pour in the olive oil and process until oil is incorporated.
With the machine off, stir in cheese with a spoon.
Use immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge for up to a few days.