ramp pesto


Hi from the depths of work and wedding planning. It’s very blurry here. I feel a little bit like I got stuck in the spin cycle of the wash, and things are swirling around me very quickly. Or I’m swirling around them. I haven’t figured out that part yet. Like I said – it’s very blurry.

I will first and foremost apologize that I’m presenting before you these Instagram photos and basically saying, “Have a nice day!” But it’s been a bit rough trying to get real work done, chase down remaining wedding items, and recipe-test-style-shoot-edit-publish for the blog. Sometimes, you just gotta let one thing go, you know? This is one of those times. So I’m sorry to give you these pictures and then expect you to get hungry.

Ramp greens

However, if there’s a greenmarket near you and they are selling ramps, I highly recommend that you get there post haste and grab some ramps. If you want to keep them for a bit longer (seeing as the ramps season is like blink-and-you-miss-it kind of a thing), you might want to trim and clean them first and then lovingly wrap them in damp (not wet!) paper towels. I find that Bounty paper towels work incredibly well for this as they keep their dampness the best. If you’re much greener than I am (and this household is pretty green), any damp cloth, that’s not terribly thick, will do. Wrap the ramps snugly, but not tightly, so they have a bit of room to breathe, tuck the leaves underneath, and put them somewhere in your crisper where they won’t get smushed. That way, they should last you a few weeks.

You can also just pickle them. They last a year (or longer) and are pretty ridiculous in cocktails (think bloody marys par excellence) or served as a garnish to a steak. Or you can do what I do and just eat them straight out of the jar.

Or you can just make this pesto. It’ll take you about half an hour, tops. And all that with boiling pasta, too. Here’s why: Instead of dumping the water you use to blanch the ramps, you reuse it for pasta. There – twenty minutes (and one less pot to wash) saved right here. If that’s not practical approach to weeknight cooking, I don’t know what is.

Pesto happening tonight #instagram #dinner

One other thing regarding these pictures. I have to say that cooking, without having to pause and take a shot and rearrange the stuffs on your counters, is a much more pleasant, gratifying experience. It lends your mind to be in the moment, so to speak; there’s a meditative, restorative, contemplative aspect to it. And so in thinking this, I might, from time to time (and probably very likely until after the wedding), resort to fewer slr-taken pictures and more words and recipes. I know full well the pull and weight of a good visual, but at the end of the day, what I really want is for you to want to get in your kitchens and make something delicious.

This pesto is delicious. Now, go and make it. And me? I’m going to chase my wedding florist down about those Mason jars. Wish me luck.

Ramp Pesto

This goes much, much faster, if you preserve the blanching water and use it to cook your pasta. In fact, dinner will never seem easier. Oh, and that cup of water you reserve from cooking the pasta? It makes the pesto stick to pasta like glue, so you get these beautifully coated stands, or pieces – whatever pasta you choose for this dish.

1 bunch ramps, cleaned and trimmed
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut the ramps in half, separating the bulbs from the leaves. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the both the bulbs and the greens, in the boiling water for 1 minute, and immediately transfer the ramps (using tongs or a slotted spoon; do not discard the water) to an ice bath. Add the pasta of your choosing to the water (see how I just saved you all this time and you’ve now one less pot to clean?) and cook until the pasta is al dente.
2. While the pasta is cooking, the ramps should, by then, be cool. Transfer the ramps to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the pine nuts and pulse a few times just to combine. Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture looks like it’s finely ground (about 12 pulses should do it). With the motor running slowly drizzle in the olive oil, starting with 1/4 cup, until the mass in the food processor begins to look like a thick slurry. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and add salt and pepper to taste (I found that I had to add a generous sprinkling of salt).
3. As soon as the pasta is ready, ladle out about 1 cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and return it back into the pot. Return the pot on the stovetop, add a few spoonfuls of the pesto, and using a wooden spoon, start mixing the pesto in. Turn the heat onto low, and add a few splashes of the reserved pasta water, all the while mixing with your spoon. Taste, and add more pesto if your palate, and eyes, desire it. Mix until you get a nicely coated pasta, not pasta dripping with pesto. Remove the pot from heat, and divide the pasta among shallow bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese and drizzle with a hint of the olive oil.

Serves 4


  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    I love cooking without having to take pictures! When I’m home visiting my parents, cooking in their fabulous kitchen, I try to refrain from taking photos. Would much rather enjoy the moment.

    Ok, now I need to get my hands on some ramps and whip this pesto up. It looks marvelous!

  • Erin

    I have never used ramps before. I think they have always intimidated me as I haven’t known what to do with them or how I would like them, but I love the idea of turning them into a pesto!

  • Julia

    This is the 2nd ‘ramp’ recipe I’ve seen in the last 2 days… before that I had never even heard of them. Your instagram shots are still making the pasta look delicious, sometimes focusing on the actual cooking part is so much more important!

  • katy

    While I’ve been taking advantage of all the green garlic and spring onions, I have yet to cook with ramps this spring. This pasta, however, is inspiring me!

    And I like this philosophy; I often feel the pressure to get a good picture while cooking, which takes away from the joy that the process brings. I think there’s a lot to be said for a good narrative; after all, shouldn’t substance count?

  • Margarita

    I’ve never had ramps before and I’ve been on the lookout for them since I read about them on someone’s blog, but with no luck. Thanks for all these ideas on what to do with them. I learned a trick from you on what to do with beet greens (I used to just throw them out), so this time I cooked them in a fried rice and it was wonderful!

  • Radish

    Margarita – so glad you liked the beet tip! And where do you live? Ramps are finicky creatures and dwell in climates with a real winter. Also, they are wild, not cultivated, so there inlies another issue.

  • Gretchen @ flowercityfoodie.com

    I whole-heartedly agree that cooking is much more meditative when you don’t have to stop every few steps and take photos. That is the hardest part about food blogging for me–I find the photo taking a bit disruptive to my creative cooking process. My best solution is to cook for my blog on a Sunday when my husband–who likes to take photos–is available to help!

  • Nadia

    I have a terrible craving for ramps. The memories bring me back to Siberia in spring, when open farmers’ markets were packed with merchants selling bunches and bunches of fresh ramps brought from Altai Mountains. I cannot find them here in New England so far, just found one place online and plan on seeding them near my house, and hope they will grow. I used to eat them raw, in salads and just like that, with salt and buttered bread.
    In this pesto I would also use them raw, skip blanching, to preserve the robust pungent aroma (and it will take even less time to cook the whole thing! :).
    Now that my husband goes to Siberia next week, I am so full of envy since now is the “ramps-time”.
    You made my craving ever so strong… :)

  • Radish

    Nadia – i never had them in Russia! We had cheremcha, but not ramps. I was always informed ramps are only native to North America… Hmm… I blanch for a minute to give it a brighter color. It in no way diminishes/alters the taste. I just love the bright green.

  • Batya

    This is such a great, seasonal twist on pesto. I also like your take re: photographing food. Photography does take away from the mediative aspect of working with food and being in the kitchen. (Although I too do it all the time.) Sometimes it’s just nice to soak in the moment (I cook with my son, so this is a precious time for us) without any styling or clicking. I remember when I was in Africa on safari there was a guy on our tour who would constantly snap photos. Everything was about the picture. He never really just took in the sights and listened to the sounds. He would simply click and review, click and review. Sometimes shutting off the camera, shutting off the phone, shutting off the TV really is the way to go. A sort of Shabbat, if you will…every now and again. Well said.

  • Emilia

    Hi, I have dried ramps at home that I used for pesto and it works great! Don’t think we have fresh ramps in the UK or Sweden. I truly know what busy means so don’t apologise :)

  • Jen

    Technical question: do we put both the bulbs and the greens in the food processor to make the pesto? If it is jyst the bulbs, how do you suggest using the greens? Wishing you luck with book and wedding prep!

  • Rye @ Cooking Classes London

    Although, I love taking pictures it is very counterproductive. You waste some good 15-20 minutes in total, re-arranging, positioning, retaking pictures, etc.

    By the by, this look sumptuous. I’m going to whip one out myself!

  • Yelena

    Recipe looks delicious! How much would you say is a bunch in terms of lbs? Our whole foods only sells by the lb and I’m trying to guage the amt. thanks!!

  • olga

    Yelena – it varies, and a good question, but I think a bunch of ramps is between 4 and 6 ounces, typically. Does that help?

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