One of the surest signs of spring in these parts is the appearance of ramps at markets and on menus around town. For those of you who may not have heard of them before, ramps are a variety of wild leek native to states along the eastern coast of the U.S. from the Carolinas northward. They’re only around for a short time, and they’re delicious, so when they’re available, we tend to binge on them.
When word got out on Saturday that the ramps had finally hit Union Square, we were sure that they’d be gone by the time we made it in to the city, but to our surprise and delight, there were plenty left when we arrived. We grabbed four fat bunches and began brainstorming.
I recently saw a segment on NY1 featuring chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig; they did a brief interview and shot lots of footage of her in the kitchen, and I noticed at one point she was preparing bundles of ramps with the stems wrapped in bacon. I used half of our ramps in that preparation as part of our Sunday brunch, and we decided to use the remainder for Monday’s dinner in an equally simple preparation – spaghetti with ramps. I basically riffed on Mario Batali’s recipe, tinkering with the proportions a bit and spiking the toasted breadcrumbs with a bit of lemon zest to brighten up the flavors. It’s a delicious dish, quick and easy to put together, and it really lets the flavor of the ramps shine through.
Spaghetti with Ramps
2 bundles small ramps, cleaned and trimmed (ours were very small so we used them whole; if you have larger ramps, separate the white and green parts, and allow the whites to cook for a few minutes before adding the greens)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/3 to 3/4 lb. thin spaghetti
1/8 cup breadcrumbs, toasted
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Cook spaghetti in an abundant amount of boiling salted water about 7 minutes, until it is just short of al dente.
While the spaghetti cooks, warm the olive oil in a skillet. Add the ramps, chile flakes and a pinch of salt and sauté until bright green. Add the spaghetti with a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water and toss through. Allow the pasta to continue cooking another minute or two and serve in warmed bowls. Mix breadcrumbs and lemon zest and sprinkle on top of the pasta.