A little over a month ago, I joined several friends to check out DC’s new Momofuku restaurant. It was my second visit, and I admitted to my fellow diners that I had been slightly underwhelmed with my first dining experience compared against NYC’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar. This second visit changed my mind, and I think it’s because of how we handled the menu. Today’s recipe is inspired by one of my favorite dishes from the night, which had not been on the menu previously due to ramps seasonal availability. I enjoyed my second meal so much that it got me thinking about the differences between how the two dinners were handled.
I was joined by Aviva from The Six O’Clock Scramble, Lori from Been There Eaten That, Laura from Mother Would Know, and Susan from Jewish Food Experience. When we dine together, we want to try as many menu options as possible, even if this means leftovers. Especially when juxtaposed with Baltimore, my home of ten years, DC’s dining scene overwhelms me. I don’t dine out as often as I’d like for a variety of reasons, so I barely manage to scratch the surface of everything my city and its surrounding suburbs has to offer. I never know if I’ll get back for a second visit. In order to fully explore the menu, we looked over each section and ordered several options with the intention of sharing everything. On my first visit, everyone ordered a single entree. We picked two or three appetizers to share. It’s still a decent amount of food, but we were less focused on small plates and sharing. We might have tasted each others entrees once, but it’s not the same experience. If one of us didn’t care for the entree, we were stuck with it. On this second visit, we focused more on small plates and sides while sharing one or two of the entrees (which in the case of Momofuku means we ordered rich noodle soups, and asked for accompanying small bowls). Each item was tasted and contemplated equally. There were some standouts, and a few that we wouldn’t order again. Overall, this led to a much more enjoyable dining experience and a total bill that, believe it or not, was similar to the first visit where we each selected an entree and stuck with it.
The ramp pesto noodles were my favorite, and while I don’t think I fully succeeded in recreating that dish, this is excellent. I created a ramp pesto recipe almost immediately. Even though ramps have a short seasonal availability, pesto freezes beautifully so I made plenty. If you’ve never seen ramps at your local grocery store, try asking in the produce department. They’re often not on display since most people don’t even know what they are. I often find them at farmer’s markets, but I have had success many times at the grocery story simply by asking.
The pickled onions add a level of sweetness and acidity that balances wonderfully against the intensity of the pesto. If you have leftover ramps, you can pickle the purple stems as well using the same method I describe in the ramp pesto recipe (bonus tip not mentioned in my original post!)
- 1 small - medium red onion, approximately 5-7 ounces
- ¾ cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 pound fettuccine (or pasta of your choice)
- generous ½ cup ramp pesto
- ¼ cup pasta water + more as needed (see instructions)
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (approximately 1 lemon)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- crushed red pepper for garnish
- freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish
- Set a colander in the sink. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, using either a kettle or a saucepan.
- While the water is heating up, cut the onion into a large dice. Place the diced onion in the colander and slowly pour the boiling water on top.
- Add the vinegar, salt and sugar to a medium-sized container or jar with a tight-fitting lid, and stir to dissolve. Add the onions, close the lid, and allow to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, and cook the pasta until al dente (according to package instructions). Before draining, use a liquid measuring cup to carefully reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.
- In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta, ramp pesto, ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, lemon juice, and salt.
- Divide between plates and top each serving with a generous portion of parsley, crushed red pepper, grated parmesan cheese, and pickled onions.