I first heard of ramps while living in Alabama. We were dining out in Birmingham at a trendy restaurant whose special that evening was beef tenderloin with morels and ramps. My unsophisticated self decided this would not be a dish I’d want to eat, even though I was dying for beef, so I chose the chicken.
My husband, who was more daring, went with the special. When the plates came to the table a gorgeous medium-rare steak smothered in onions and mushrooms was placed before my husband, while I got the chicken.
It was then that I found out a morel was only a mushroom and a ramp was nothing more than a wild onion and not at all what I thought it was when I first heard the name. (I thought a ramp was a baby eel!)
Ramps are very similar to green onions or scallions except their leaves are flat and they are only available for about five weeks every spring. They have a different flavor than green onions or scallions, almost a hint of garlic like a baby shallot. Ramps are just amazingly delicious and such a treat if you should find yourself looking at a plate of braised ramps, or roasted ramps, or fried ramps, or spaghetti with ramps which my family loves.
Note: I use a recipe given to me from a friend, but according to her it was originally created by chef Mario Batali. I also add in 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and one teaspoon lemon zest and a splash of dry white wine to my pan.
SPAGHETTI WITH RAMPS
Recipe accredited to Mario Batali
1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces clean ramps
1-2 tablespoons red chili flakes (Use less if you don’t like heat)
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs toasted in 4 tablespoons of butter
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cut the ramps into two pieces: the white root ends and the green tops. Add the root ends to the pan and saute until tender. Add salt, pepper and chili flakes. Also add the lemon juice, zest and a splash of white wine. When the ramps are tender, add the green tops and cook them until they are soft.
In the mean time cook your pasta al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and add it to the saute pan. Add some pasta water if needed. Toss the pasta in the sauce and pour into a large pasta bowl.
Sprinkle with toasted, buttered bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Serve with a green salad and a dry white wine.
Now if you ever see ramps on the menu you’ll know they are nothing to fear, and if you’re an onion lover, you’d be wise to order up a plate of ramps no matter how they’re prepared.