Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. You’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors.
Every spring I’m reminded of how happy I am that we bought a house in the Hudson Valley. The sun is out and I’m sitting on our deck, watching the chickens romp around the ‘garden’. Yes, ‘garden’ is in quotes because it’s mostly weeds, rocks and buried concrete (why, previous owners? Why?). And yes, those pesky chickens are obsessed with destroying the few plants we’re actually trying to grow. But none of that matters! Gardens can be planted. Chickens can be
strangled penned. The important thing is that it’s ours and we love it (sometimes).
Another fantastic thing about spring is all the wonderful fresh green things that are just beginning to show up at the farmers’ market (or your own garden, if you’re lucky and/or talented). A simple pasta dish like this takes full advantage of these fresh flavors, pairing the tender vegetables with crispy pancetta* and a light, creamy sauce.
*You could absolutely leave the pancetta out for a vegetarian dish. You’ll probably want to add a bit more salt since the pancetta is salty.
Can’t find ramps? Use tender spring onions or young leeks instead.
You could really add any tender spring vegetable you like; asparagus, pea shoots, baby spinach or chard would all be great additions or substitutions. If you can get your hands on some fresh morels, those would be outrageously good here.
Be careful not to overcook the vegetables. You want them bright green and just tender. Quick cooking vegetables like ramp leaves, pea shoots or baby spinach can be added just a few seconds before the pasta.
Don’t forget to reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water! When the pasta is just al dente, drain it and toss it straight into the sauce with some of the water (start with 1/4 cup). Keep tossing until it’s completely coated in the creamy sauce (but not drenched). Add more water, a little at a time, if needed. The pasta will soak up some of the sauce as it sits.
Spring Pasta with Ramps, Peas and Pancetta
- 1/2 pound ramps cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces* (bulbs and leaves separated)
- 5 oz pancetta or bacon diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen peas no need to thaw, if frozen but blanch, if fresh
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 10 ounces dried linguine pasta
- Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese optional
- Set a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook linguine according to package directions until al dente; reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining pasta.
- While pasta is cooking, make the sauce.In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until crisp and lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Remove excess fat from the pan if there is more than 2 tablespoons. Add ramp bulbs (if you have them) and sauté for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook 30 sec longer (careful not to burn the garlic). Add wine to skillet. Return to heat and cook for 1 minute. Add cream. Cook and stir occasionally for 6 to 8 minutes until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Add peas and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until peas are just tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- When pasta is done, add it to the pan along with 1/4- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water. Toss until pasta is fully coated. Add more pasta water a little at a time, if needed. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan, if using.