ramp pesto – makes 1 cup
- 1 bunch of ramps
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1 small clove of garlic
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 5 small mint leaves
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- 10 large cherry tomatoes
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup ramp pesto
- 10 balsamic roasted tomatoes
- 8 oz quinoa or brown rice pasta
Ramps are an intriguing root, balancing the sharp flavors of onion and garlic in a scallion-like body. My favorite savory flavor, with limitless possibilities. So after waffling over how to use it (savory pancakes? bruschetta? just pickled?), I pinned down the idea of pesto pasta. Not only is the recipe simple to make, but I can use it on everything. Pasta. Eggs. A slab of thick sourdough. The pungent spread spices up anything in a beautiful way.
Although I had my mind set on making pesto, I observed different restaurant menus for inspiration. This past weekend my boyfriend and I wandered into Buvette, where I tried a glorious tartine. Over thick slabs of crusty bread reigned a decadent, walnut mint pesto. I tried not to grab every piece with all ten fingers, and I’m sure my boyfriend appreciated the minor show of self-control. (Right, silverware.) The flavor was so rich I almost drowned, but I bobbed back up with a spike of mint in every bite. I really liked that brightening contrast. Remembering how mint lifted up the dish, I added a few leaves to the ramp pesto experiment. Success! The heavy garlic and onion flavor lightened with just a few leaves. (If you don’t have any at home, the dish still tastes great without.)
Along with the mint in the pesto, I added a bunch of roasted cherry tomatoes to the pot. Again, I love pesto, but it’s a bit rich on its own. A fresh squirt of fruit evens out the dish’s heaviness. Additionally, roasting the tomatoes heightens their sweetness, while adding balsamic adds a good twinge of tang. Or as we say in the South, twang. (Ha, just kidding.)
A word to the wise, just watch out for timing as these tender plants don’t stay around for long! Ramps have a crazily limited seasonality. If you happen to run out of them at the market, try replacing ramps with ripe scallions and garlic. The impact will be heavier, but you’ll still heartily enjoy the pesto and overall dish.
So here we go!
Ramp Pesto Pasta
1. Bring lightly salted pot of water to boil. Add pasta, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until al dente (about 6-8 minutes). Drain and set aside.
2. Slice off the end of each ramp’s base, removing and discarding the roots (for compost!). Dice the green leaves and pinkish stems in 1/2 inch pieces. Crush the garlic.
3. Combine the ramps, garlic, nuts, lemon, and mint in a food processor until chunky. Add in the olive oil in three phases, processing the mix in between. Eventually you should have a creamy, delicious paste. Salt to taste. Combine with the fresh pasta.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise, so the stem is on one side by itself. With the cut side up, place the halves on an oiled baking pan (or cast-iron skillet). Rub in the fresh thyme leaves, then evenly drizzle on the balsamic. Lightly salt. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the skins pucker and darken.
2. Eat right out of the oven, or combine with the ramp pesto pasta. Either way, enjoy!