This recipe has three parts: 1) foraging, 2) the ramp prep, and 3) the pasta prep. You will love how the pasta "how to" will work really well for many, many other pasta dish riffs!
Step 1: Forage Ramps
My husband and I walked a half mile deep into the woods past a babbling brook and a host of fairy glens. The ramps settled themselves by the thousands down a bank in the dank shade.
Ramp leaves are 6 to 12 inches long and lush green. Two or three leaves emanate from a single stalk. Beneath the leaves lies a small onion-like bulb. Ramps are the caviar of country spring. Foragers rarely share their ramping grounds. Some farmers' markets will include ramps among their more cultivated produce. Grab the ramps. Trust me.
Sustainable ramp harvest is the best way. And because I know you want to be the best, here's my advice. If you spot a really big, robust and seemingly crowded bunch, feel free to pull a few ramps from the ground, bulb and all. It is more potent and delectable, but if you pull too many... POOF... no more ramps.
The best way is to bring a bag and some scissors and to cut the ramps just below the leaves and just above the earth. There you will find a thin shaft that often has a magenta color. Take them home and wash 'em up.
Step 2: Cooking the ramps
Wash first so you don't eat dirt. Separate all the leaves from one another. If a stalk has three, just pull them apart. Then I heat a cast iron skillet -- always this if you can manage it. It's just the best way to go. Add some of your most prized olive oil, the bottle you hoard. Ramps are worth every drop. Sprinkle some salt. Saute them on high heat, charring a few and watching as the leaves balloon. Turn with tongs so all the ramp leaves are wilted. Set aside on a plate. Try one. Be the Royal Tester. It's so important.
Step 3: Making the pasta
Ok, don't roll your eyes. I know you know how to make pasta. You can do it that way and add the ramps at the end, but this is a better way. You can use if for many other pasta dishes where you are featuring a vegetable you love. Seared cherry tomatoes are my (other) favorite.
First, use spaghetti. Or some kind of long noodle. I think Bucatini is best here. It's a spaghetti that is actually tubular, but thin. It has a hole right down the center. It has strength for a noodle and also flexibility.
Break the Bucatini in half so it can lay down flat in the very same cast iron skillet you used for the ramps. Turn up the heat and pour 2 cups of water over the pasta. Sprinkle with salt. Have 2 more cups of water at the ready for when the first two cups boil away. Keep adding water until the pasta is al dente or however you like it (no pressure, but al dente is best!). You can use the timing on the side of the box to figure out when to stop cooking. But keep adding water all the while. When the pasta is ready, mix in a generous handful of "I just grated it right here and right now" parmesan cheese. The starch from the water and the cheese marry to make the creamiest pasta that is all ready to receive the ramps. Give the pasta what it deserves... mix in the ramps and serve it piping hot!
That's it. Serve. Say oooh and ahhh. And send me a picture!
xoxo, Farm Girl
salt and pepper
cast iron skillet
Parmesan cheese that you grate fresh