Ramp Pesto is a creamy, bold, flavorful condiment highlighting wild leeks. Add this spring treat to pasta, serve it with fish, meat and poultry, or spread it on crostini! Ramps are only available for a painfully brief period of time each year. The good news is that this ramp pesto freezes beautifully, making it a perfect way to preserve them to enjoy throughout the year.
I’ll be the first to admit it- sometimes I shy away from unfamiliar produce and stay in my comfort zone. I think it’s something many of us do. It’s so easy to stick with the familiar, especially when we’re all pressed for time.
At first, ramps were no exception. I’m so glad that several years ago I finally gave them a try.
Ramps pack a serious flavor punch. Their season is quite brief, at least where I live on the east coast. You’ve got to grab them while they’re available.
What Are Ramps?
Ramps (also known as allium tricoccum, spring onions, wild leeks, wood leeks, ramsons and wild garlic), are a wild onion that is mostly found across the eastern United States and eastern Canada. With a small, white and purple bulb and hairy root, ramps resemble scallions but taste more like garlic.
When Are Ramps in Season?
Ramps have a very short season- a few weeks from late April to early June.
They will pop up in spring time at farmers markets, but they might be more difficult to track down at grocery stores. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find them.
I recently scoured my local produce department, hoping to find some but realizing it was a long shot. Before giving up, I asked one of the employees, and it turns out there was a large box of ramps hiding in the back stock room!
Not enough people were buying them. The cashier who rang me up had no idea what they were.
How to Cook Ramps
- Use ramps in place of scallions anywhere a recipe calls for them.
- Dice into small pieces and use as a garnish over dips, soups, or eggs.
- Add to roasted vegetables such as potatoes or broccoli, waiting until the last 5-10 minutes to add them since they don’t need long to roast.
- Ramp pesto! See below.
- Ramps are amazing in pasta. Check out my ramp pesto pasta recipe.
How to Make Ramp Pesto
This recipe essentially tastes like garlic pesto. I’ve done what I can to minimize any potential dragon breath by adding fresh parsley. While the flavor of the ramps overpowers the parsley, the herb serves a purpose.
Science time: Plant chemicals like polyphenols and chlorophyll bind to the sulfur compounds in garlic and help neutralize the odor that causes garlic breath.
For reference, other herbs such as thyme, basil, cilantro, dill, and mint will have similar results.
You can add additional parsley to the pesto to increase this effect. However, you might want to avoid serving this on a first date, just to be safe. At the very least, have some mints handy.
Looking For More Condiment Recipes?
Ramp Pesto is a creamy, bold flavored condiment highlighting wild leeks. Add it to pasta, serve it with fish, meat or poultry, or spread it on crostini!
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (see notes)
- 6 ounces ramps
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, packed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Toast the pine nuts. To toast in a skillet: heat a skillet over medium heat and add the nuts. Swirl the pan periodically until the pine nuts are golden and fragrant, approximately 5 minutes.
To toast in the oven: Preheat to 350 degrees F. Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast until golden and fragrant, approximately 5 minutes. Gently shake the pan every 2 minutes, keeping an eye on them. Set aside to cool.
Prep the ramps: Wash the ramps thoroughly. Trim off and discard the root tips (just the tips, not the bulbs). Slice in half, separating the leafy green tops from the long stems and bulbs. Chop the stem side into approximately 1-inch pieces. Set the stems aside.
Blanch the ramps. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, setting a large bowl of ice water nearby. Once the water is boiling, add the green tops and blanch until bright green, approximately 15-30 seconds. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the greens to the ice water to halt the cooking process. Drain and then squeeze out most of the excess liquid.
Add ingredients to food processor. Add the ramps (both the greens and stems/bulbs), pine nuts, parsley, parmesan, and zest to a food processor. Pulse several times to chop, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the machine running, add 1/4 cup of the olive oil. If desired, add additional olive oil to thin out the mixture slightly. Add kosher salt to taste.
The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Pine nuts can be expensive, so other nuts may be substituted in their place. Slivered/blanched almonds or pistachios would be good options.
Yields approximately 1 cup total.
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About the Author
Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.