Ramp Pesto

Ramp Pesto
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Pesto can be made from really anything: We’ve all seen pesto made with basil of course, but you can also use mint, parsley, cilantro and other herbs. In this case I use ramps (or other wild green onions). This is a great use for ramps of course, but also three-cornered leeks, “lawn onions,” or chives, or really any green onion or scallion.

When I make pesto I want it to last a while in the fridge, so I blanch the greens first. You don’t have to do this, but blanching your green things goes a long way to preventing the dreaded “brown pesto” problem we all face with unused pesto. Blanching kills the enzymes that cause browning.

Here’s how I blanch my green onions for this recipe:

  • You will need two or three big handfuls of fresh ramp leaves, about 2 cups, chopped more or less — only you’re not chopping them yet. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt.
  • Toss the ramp leaves into the boiling water. Stir around and boil for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Fish them out with a skimmer or the tongs and immediately dump them into a big bowl with ice water in it. Once they are cool, put them in a colander to strain.
  • Get a cloth towel, like a tea towel, and put the ramps in it. Wrap one end of the towel one way, then the other end of the towel the other and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

Ramp Pesto

Photo by Hank Shaw

My favorite way to use this pesto is with pasta, especially nettle pasta or the easy-to-make pasta shape called gnocchi ricci. It’s also good spread on toast, or with white meats like chicken or pheasant, or with firm fish such as sturgeon, swordfish or tuna. Play around with it. you’ll find what suits you best.

Store any unused pesto in the fridge, topped with some olive oil to keep the air out. It’ll keep this way for a week or so.

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