Ramp and Parsley Pesto
Please welcome Hank as he shares one of his favorite things to make with wild foraged ramps, ramp and parsley pesto. Outstanding with pasta, though I ate half of this straight with a spoon. So good. ~Elise
Ramps arrive in the East Coast well before good basil can be found, so I’ve adapted a classic cool-weather pesto from Liguria, in Northern Italy, that uses walnuts and parsley instead of basil and pine nuts. Only in this case I am substituting the garlic in that pesto for fresh ramps, which are a kind of wild onion that has a pronounced garlic flavor. I blanch the greens first to keep them vivid; if you don’t do this, your pesto will oxidize and turn brown in a few hours unless you cover it in olive oil.
If you can’t find ramps, use green garlic. Both are available at farmer’s markets in spring, although ramps are tough to locate west of Minnesota.
Serve this pesto like you would any other: With pasta or in risotto, on crusty bread or as a dollop in soup.
- 2/3 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated parmiggiano-reggiano cheese (you could also use pecorino)
- 1 small bunch parsley
- 1 small bunch ramps or thin green garlic
- Pinch of salt
1 Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat, tossing from time to time, until you can smell them, about 5-7 minutes.
2 Bring a large kettle of salty water to a rolling boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Blanch the parsley in the boiling water for 1 minute, then submerge it in the ice water (shocking the parsley with ice water will keep it bright green). Cut off the leaves of the ramps, leaving the white parts for another use (see sautéed ramps with truffle salt recipe). Blanch the ramp leaves in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Douse in the ice water.
3 Drain the parsley and ramp leaves, then put them in a kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the greens, and twist one end of the towel one way, and the other end of the towel the opposite way. Wring out the parsley and ramps tightly. You want as much water as you can to drain away.
4 Chop the parsley and ramps well and put into the bowl of a food processor. Chop the walnuts well and put them in, too. Add the parmiggiano cheese and a healthy pinch of salt. Buzz the mixture together a few times, then, with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil slowly. Stop the food processor immediately after the oil is incorporated. Taste for salt, and add if needed.
Serve within a couple days. For storage, keep covered in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil over it. Freeze if you will have any left over after 3 days.