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.

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Ramp and Parsley Pesto Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 1/3 cups

Serve this pesto like you would any other: With pasta or in risotto, on crusty bread or as a dollop in soup.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

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sauteed-ramps-2.jpg
Ramp pesto served with white ends of ramps, sautéed in olive oil and sprinkled with lemon zest.

7 Comments

  1. Celia Westberry

    I have heard that blanching will kill the vitamin C in parsley, so if you are making this to up grade your health, using olive oil might be more beneficial.

    You only blanch the parsley for a few seconds, not long enough to destroy its vitamin C. But it is really to set the color in the veggies – otherwise they oxidize fast. If you are that concerned with it, then yes, be sure your pesto is well covered in olive oil. ~Hank

  2. Shaheen

    I must find out what ramps are called locally, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. I want that bowl of pesto right now with the focaccia I’ve baked!

    If you are in the United States, they are almost always called either ramps or wild leeks. In the UK, they are ramsons. In France, “garlic leaves.” ~ Hank

  3. Roger C

    Definitely gonna try this – does anyone know whether one can blanch basil to set it’s color, too? Usually I use lots of olive oil, but even sitting out too long I find it blackening when cut in a chiffonade, for example…

    Yes, quick blanching in lots of salty boiling water – it must be salty – sets the green color in any plant. Basil might need only 10-30 seconds, then a good dousing in ice water to stop the cooking. ~Hank

  4. Carolie

    Thank you for a fantastic recipe for ramps! I LOVE them, but they’re awfully strong — this recipe makes good use of them without giving me breath that will fell an ox.

    Only one correction — ramps are DEFINITELY found “east of Wisconsin”! As a matter of fact, they’re found all over the East Coast, and are quite popular in the mountains of North Carolina. I thought they were harder to find WEST of Wisconsin!

    D’OH!!! Yes, you are correct! I meant West of Minnesota, actually. Sorry about that. ~Hank

  5. Gaby

    I made this last night for my clients and served it with fresh pasta and garlic sauteed shrimp… it was the highlight of the night! It made the shrimp and the pasta pop! Love it!

  6. Jessie

    Delicious! We made this last night and savored every bit. Didn’t see the photo of the sauteed ends of the ramps with the peso. Looks like we know how to use the leftover pesto. Thanks!

  7. Pille @ Nami-Nami

    Hank, I disagree with equating ramps with ramsons. Ramps aka wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) are very similar in flavour, but not the same species as wild garlic (bear’s garlic, Allium ursinum) we use in Europe. Yes, they can be substituted in recipes pretty easily, but whatever Wikipedia says, they’re not the same :)

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