Ramp Pesto

Ramp Pesto recipe

The Spruce / Jennifer Perillo

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 10 to 12
Yield: 1 to 1 1/4 cups

From mid-spring to early summer ramps invade farmers' markets. If you've ever wondered what to do with these garlic-scented leaves and bulbs, part of the allium family, look no further than a familiar Italian recipe: pesto.

Ramps, sometimes inadvertently called wild leeks or wild garlic, can easily be swapped into your favorite basil pesto recipe (use instead of garlic), or you can make a batch sans basil and rely solely on the ramps for an earthy, garlicky ramp pesto.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 ounce) bunch ramps
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil, divided; plus more as needed

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a food processor, combine the ramp leaves and bulbs, walnuts, pecorino, and lemon juice. Pulse until coarsely chopped.

  3. With the food processor running, slowly pour in 1/4 cup of the olive oil for a thick paste-like pesto. For a thinner sauce-like pesto, slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. Serve the ramp pesto tossed with hot pasta, stirred into mashed potatoes, mixed into a vinaigrette dressing, or as a cheeseboard accompaniment. Enjoy!

Tips

  • Can’t find ramps? Look for garlic scapes, the early bloom from garlic plants, usually found in farmers’ markets in late spring and early summer.
  • If you buy ramps where the roots and leaves have been harvested, you can use them both in your pesto, or just the leaves and pickle the stems (great for cheeseboards and garnishing cocktails).
  • If you intend to harvest ramps on your own, a more sustainable way of harvesting them is to snip one of the two leaves growing, leaving the second leaf and its bulb in the ground to ensure the ramp colony grows back each year.
  • The entire ramp plant is edible, from the deep green leaves down to the white bulb, but you can get all the flavor you need using just the leaves.

Recipe Variations

Make It Your Own: We're going with a straightforward ramp-centric pesto for the recipe above but feel free to throw in a handful of fresh basil leaves or swap in pine nuts or even cashews for the walnuts.

Make it Vegan: Swap in nutritional yeast, to taste, and omit the Pecorino for a vegan ramp pesto.

How to Store

  • To store, transfer ramp pesto to a glass jar, and drizzle enough oil over to cover pesto completely. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

To blanch or not to blanch?

Some people swear by quickly blanching ramp leaves in boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds, then plunging into ice water before draining to preserve the bright green color before making pesto. Do what works for you!


Blanching is fine but not necessary, if you don't mind adding a layer of oil to cover your ramp pesto completely before refrigerating. The layer of oil protects your ramp pesto from oxidation, helping to retain its bright green color.