Ramp and Parsley Pesto

Favorite SpringSaucePestoRamp

If you find ramps at your local farmer's market, make this ramp pesto! Ramps have a bright, garlicky flavor that is perfect for pesto. Toss it with pasta, spread on sandwiches, or swirl it into a spring soup.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

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How to Keep Your Pesto Green!

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.

Substitutes for Ramps

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.

sautéed ramps over ramp pesto plate

What to Do with Ramp Pesto

In the photo above, the ramp pesto served with white ends of ramps, sautéed in olive oil and sprinkled with lemon zest.

Use can also your ramp pesto just as you would any other pesto: toss it with pasta or in a risotto, spread it on burgers and sandwiches, swirl it into a bowl of soup, or serve it with eggs.

How to Store Ramp Pesto

Keep the pesto covered in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil over it, and use within a few days. For longer storage, freeze for up to three months.

More Ways to Enjoy Pesto Year Round

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.


  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin 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, toast the walnuts. Toss from time to time, until you can smell them, about 5-7 minutes.

2 Blanch the parsley and ramp greens: 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 the leaves off the ramps, leaving the white parts for another use. Blanch the ramp leaves in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Douse in the ice water.

3 Wring out excess water: 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 Blend in food processor: 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.

Pulse 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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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

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11 Comments / Reviews

No ImageRamp and Parsley Pesto

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Melanie

    Great recipe! Fresh taste of spring!


  2. Elizabeth

    I just got half a pound of ramps. How much is a “small bunch?”

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Carolyn

    I’ve successfully transplanted ramps into a shady spot in my back yard, and the patch is finally big enough to harvest from! My favorite way to make this pesto is with arugula instead of parsley. They’re each strong enough to shine without overpowering each other, and the resulting pesto packs a spicy punch. Best over homemade egg yolk pasta, with sauteed morels. Springtime heaven.

  4. 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 :)

  5. 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!


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