I'd never eaten a ramp before in my life. But there I found myself week after week, trolling greenmarkets, unable to wait for something other than root vegetables. My own obsession was mysterious, but the general public excitement over ramps is remarkable. Ignored as nuisances for years, they are also called wild leeks and have flat, floppy leaves and a beautiful purple stem. The flavor is an earthy pungent combination of scallions and garlic, and is usually served simply grilled, in pastas or risottos, or baked into gratins and frittatas. The prices are quite fetching—up to $20/pound—for what is essentially a weed. When they first came, ramps were often sold out at the market by 9 a.m.
So when I finally did land some ramps, I went straight to this recipe from an article on Gourmet.com by a former chef at Babbo, Yoshi Yamada. He describes the Babbo preparation in a paragraph with imprecise quantities and large strokes—but essentially, it's ramps, bread crumbs, cheese, and olive oil. The ramp bulbs are sliced away and cooked in hot oil, while the leaves are julienned and tossed in off the heat. I've guessed at a few quantities here, but everything came out well for me—the wafting ramp flavor came through beautifully, the breadcrumbs gave it texture, and Pecorino (instead of Parmesan) offered a little sharpness to echo the ramp's more biting qualities.
- 1-2 bunches ramps, about 20
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 pound linguine
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted in a little olive oil
- Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste
Bring a large pot of salty water to boil and begin cooking the pasta.
Clean the ramps, removing the translucent husk over the bulb (if necessary), and slice to separate the leaves from the bulbs. Stack the leaves on top of one another, roll them up lengthwise, and slice thinly into ribbons (julienned).
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan until just smoking, then pull the pan off the flame, toss in the ramp bulbs, and toss well until the pan calms some. Return to heat and sear until blistered, brown, and soft. Add the garlic to the pan, tossing until toasted and nutty, then add the al dente linguine to the pan. Add the breadcrumbs and julienned leaves and toss until wilted, then transfer to plates and grate Pecorino over the top. Finish with a little olive oil, if desired.