Ramps Pesto

Last spring, I fell in love with a ramps pesto thin crust pizza being served up at Fat Cat Pie Co. in Norwalk, CT.  Fat Cat’s owner Mark Ancona kindly shared the pesto recipe with me: simply blend together ramps, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Eagerly, I went home and made some with my favorite Himalayan pink salt and organic olive oil.  It was so simple and delicious!

I was reminded of it the other day when Sophie, who edits this blog, told me about wild ramps she’s been sustainably harvesting near her home.  Ramps, also referred to as wild leeks, wood leeks, and spring onions, are perennial wild onions native to North America.  Ramps truly are a delicacy and have gained a lot of attention among foodies over the past decade for their unique garlic-like odor and oniony taste.  They also have beautifully tender leaves and a slightly crisp bulb.  On top of this, they’re only around for a small window of time – just a few weeks in early spring.

You can find ramps at your local farmer’s market and some health food stores.  As they’re a rare seasonal treat, their price per pound might seem high.  Remember, you’re not only investing in the ramps, but hopefully sustainable harvesting practices, too (the rise in popularity of ramps has threatened some wild crops throughout the country.).  You might also venture out into the forest and forage for ramps.  If you’re doing so, be sure to do a little online research about ramp identification and harvesting techniques.  There’s a lot of good info out there.

This pesto is one of our favorite ways to enjoy nature’s gift!  As mentioned, it’s very easy to make.  You can also vary the recipe according to taste.

The 4 essential ingredients are:

  • Ramps (15-25)
  • 1/4 cup or more of Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • You might also choose to add a handful of toasted walnuts or pine nuts.
  • Parmesan cheese is a nice addition, too.

You can either make the pesto with raw ramps or blanch them beforehand. Blanching will help preserve the green color of the leaves and reduce some of the oniony bite.  Sophie also made a pesto that only used the leaves of the ramps as she pickled the bulbs.  It was smoother, less zesty, and delicious with pasta.  After our experimentation, we found that we loved all 3 variations.

Here’s are the basic steps to make Ramps Pesto:

  • Wash and trim the ramps.  (Sophie replanted the ramps’ roots by a stream near her home.  We’ll let you know if they regenerate! )  Wash once more after taking roots of.
  • If you’re blanching the ramps, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of ice water, too.  Place to the trimmed ramps in boiling water for about 20-30 seconds.  Then, use tongs to quickly transfer the ramps from the boiling water to the ice water.  After a moment, drain well in a colander or sieve.
  • Use a knife to coarsely chop the ramps.  Then place into the work bowl of a food processor with a dash of salt and freshly cracked pepper.  If you’re using nuts and/or cheese, add that now.  Cover the food processor and pulse as you drizzle olive oil through the food chute.  Remember, add the olive oil slowly as you can always add but your can’t take away!  Add oil and blend until the pesto is desired consistency.
  • Taste and stir in more salt or pepper as needed.
  • Serve up on pasta, bread, crackers, orzo, with tofu, or risotto! You can freeze the pesto for future use, too.



By Wei Bertram and Sophie Slater

Photos by Sophie Slater