Eating seasonally is a refreshing thing. Every time I go to the green market I hope to find something new and different. This time I found Ramps. If you have never heard of ramps you are not alone. I only became aware of it last year and that is because when it comes to seasonal ingredients, ramps is all you see in social media, food magazines and celebrity chef menus in April. So I could not help but to be curious and I love unique ingredients.
I agree that even writing about an ingredient that is only available for a few months sounds kind of pretentious. I admit that I felt funny writing this post for the simple fact that most of the people I know have no idea of what ramp is (not to mention will be unable to find it), but I did not know either and here I am loving it. You can then call me pretentious for loving rare things; I cannot help but feel excited about ramps because they are wonderful and very delicious.
There is a whole renaissance culinary value around ramps. One might argue that their short season makes then special. Although this may be true I agree that ramps are special not only for their short lives (about eight weeks of the year) or price but for me they are special for their taste.
Ramps are wild leeks; mild and sweet with a unique garlicky flavor and aroma. I personally think their aroma is closest to garlic than onions; they belong to the Allium family which includes onion and garlic, leek, chive, scallion and shallot. If you know me then you will know why I felt in love for this rare ingredient. I can have two of my favorite flavor in one ingredient, garlic and onion. They look somehow like scallions but with wider leaves. When cooked they also sustain more texture and add more flavor than scallions.
These delicious greens can be sautéed, grilled and stir fried. They can be also be pickled; a great solution for those who cannot get enough of them when in season, but want to extend their availability. It can also be served chopped in salads, with eggs, chicken or fish.
Like any fresh ingredients ramps are great when made simply. With this in mind I decided to follow the lead of Mario Batali and made his Spaghetti with Ramps recipe. Chef Mario Bateli is crazy about ramps and now I am too. His recipe for Spaghetti with ramps is simple as it should be for a ramps pasta dish. They add a garlicky flavor that I love. Yes I admit that I am a garlic fanatic and in this dish I did not have to add any. The only thing I changed to this dish was the breadcrumbs. I decided to make a bread crumb gremolata with pistachio and parsley. The gremolata added a layer of flavor and texture to this simple pasta without overwhelming the fresh fragrance of its main ingredient.
All the credit for this delicious spaghetti with ramps recipe is owed to Chef Mario Batali.
- 1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
- 8 ounces fresh ramps, white root ends and green leafy tops separated
- 1 to 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
- For the bread crumb-pistachio gremolata:
- 1 tablespoon butter or extra olive oil
- ½ cup fresh bread crumbs (coarsely ground from day old bread)
- ¼ cup pistachio (toasted and grounded)
- Zest of 1-2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Breadcrumbs-pistachio gremolata
- Pecorino cheese (optional)
- Extra olive oil, for drizzling
Make the gremolata first:
In a skillet heat the oil and add the bread crumbs stirring constantly. Cook until bread is golden brown. Add the pistachio and turn off the heat. Incorporate lemon zest, parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta.
For the pasta:
In a large pot bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to the boiling water and let water return to a boil. Add the spaghettis and cook according to package direction, until tender but still al dente.
While pasta cooks, in a large skillet over medium-high heat the olive oil. Add the root ends or white parts of ramps to the pan. Cook until tender stirring it often to make sure they cook evenly; season with red pepper flakes and salt. Add leafy greens part of the ramps and cook until wilted.
Drain pasta and add to skillet. Toss the pasta gently until pasta is all coated with the rest of the ingredients. Divide pasta into individual plates and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with gremolata or cheese and serve immediately.
Note for ramps: Find fresh ramps on your local market when in season. The flavor and texture of ramp is unique, but if you cannot find it and yet want to make this dish substitute the ramps for a combination of fresh garlic and shallots, spring onions or chives.
This post is also available in: Spanish