When spring arrives, so do the delicious little ramps. Ramps are really just wild leeks that are much smaller and harder to come by. While I find them to be a really nice cross between garlic, onions and leeks, in some ways, they might be a tab bit overrated. Every restaurant in the country grabs them by the handful, using them in a variety of different ways. I’ve read a few articles that actually say that this over picking of wild ramps has caused supplies to dwindle and the cost to rise — as with any supply/demand chain for short season produce. Last week was my only attempt at cooking them, and likely my only attempt for the short season.
Despite the fact that wild leeks might be in short supply, I still think they are pretty delicious. And once a year, I don’t see it as a huge issue to cook them once and eat them at a few different restaurants (hopefully those that are finding them locally). Ramps don’t need a lot of things around them, as you want to get the full flavor of the ramp. I decided to take a simple recipe from Mario Batali’s Babbo which was just pasta, ramps, oil and chili flakes and ramp it up (yea, I went there) and add peas and mushrooms. The flavor still came through, and the ramp stems add a nice earthiness to the dish.
Recipe inspired by Mario Batali
1 pound dry spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh ramps*
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted (or fresh if available)
1 cup crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
*To prepare ramps, cut off bottom root tip and the thin layer of skin that may be dark and discolored. Cut white portion off from stem and keep separated.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook according to the package direction, until tender but still al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute for about 3-4 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the ramp white root ends to pan and cook for 3-4 more minutes, or until tender. Add a pinch of salt, peas and chili flakes.
Right before adding the pasta, add the leafy ramp tops. Let wilt briefly and then add pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water to thicken sauce if necessary. Drizzle with a finishing olive oil and a bit of Parmesan. Toss well to coat pasta and serve immediately.