Discover the vibrant and flavorful world of spring ramps with this delicious ramp pesto recipe. The unique combination of pungent ramps, basil, parsley, lemon, pine nuts and cheese is wonderful served over meat, fish or more traditionally, with pasta.
Pesto is one of those recipes that can be made with just about anything green. From zucchini pesto to radish greens pesto and everything in between, throw some green leafy veg in the food processor with nuts, cheese (although even this can be omitted if desired) and olive oil and you have a delicious pesto sauce.
So when I spotted ramps at the farmer’s market recently, I immediately knew what they were destined for – ramp pesto. Their onion-like appearance and mellower garlicky taste epitomize the spring season. Plus, they’re gorgeous making them almost irresistible to pass up.
Some ramp pesto recipes choose to blanch the ramps before processing to tame their flavor and preserve the bright green color in the pesto once stored. I chose to keep them raw in this pesto though and add in both basil and parsley to mellow out the flavor a bit. I didn’t run into any trouble with the pesto browning in the refrigerator after a few days so I find this step unnecessary.
If you can’t find ramps, spring onions can be substituted but if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on these spring gems, definitely pick up a few bunches!
What are ramps?
Ramps are a species of wild onion belonging to the allium family, sometimes referred to as “wild leeks”. They sort of look like scallions or green onions in the stem area but they fan out into a broader thinner green leaf. From a flavor perspective, ramps taste more similar to garlic than onions.
Basically, if a garlic scape crossed with a leek in flavor, the result would be a wild ramp.
Their season is short-lived in the spring and they grow mainly in the Appalachian mountain region of the North America ranging up into Canada and down into the Tennessee/Georgia region. When they disappear from the market, rhubarb is usually close behind to take up the slack and garlic scapes soon thereafter (another farmer’s market ingredient well suited for pesto making).
They can be enjoyed in a variety of ways from diced and sautéed (they’re great in an egg scramble) to pickled (similar to pickled garlic scapes), grilled or processed into a pesto.
Ramp pesto ingredients
There are so many ways to make pesto so feel free to adapt this to your liking or what you have on hand. As long as you keep the bones of the recipe intact, the pesto will work out.
- 2 bunches fresh wild ramps, cleaned with root ends trimmed
- toasted pine nuts
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- fresh lemon zest
- salt & pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
The basil and parsley can be swapped out for any other green such as baby spinach or arugula. You can also use all basil or all parsley. I personally like adding another green to tame the pungent garlic flavor of the ramps.
Parmesan can be substituted for pecorino if preferred. The cheeses are very similar but pecorino is made with sheep’s milk whereas parmesan is from cows. Pecorino is a bit sharper in taste and always my preference.
If you don’t keep pine nuts on hand (or used them all up making vegan pignoli cookies), walnuts or almonds are good substitutions.
*Pro tip – Don’t skip the fresh lemon zest. The brightness and acidity of the lemon really helps balance the savory flavors of the ramps.
How to make ramp pesto
The full recipe is below but like any pesto, this one’s incredibly easy with a good quality food processor.
Add all the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until finely minced, scraping down the sides as necessary until all the ramps are processed.
With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a smooth consistency results. Again, scrape down the sides as needed.
More olive oil or water can be added to the pesto to make it drippier if preferred. I do this when using the pesto as more of a dressing or vinaigrette (like over grilled vegetables) instead of tossing with pasta.
Adjust the salt and pepper to taste at the end and process once more to combine.
How to use ramp pesto
It’s hard to think of a more comforting and simple meal than pesto pasta and that’s our number one choice for using this ramp pesto recipe. Toss it with any pasta (or gnocchi) of your choice and enjoy simply with extra grated cheese. Try pesto spaghetti squash for a lower-carb option.
But pesto can be used in so many ways beyond pasta as well. For example, pesto potatoes are a great way to jazz up a roasted potato side dish. Or, swirl a hefty dollop into mashed potatoes or mashed rutabaga for added flavor.
It’s also a delicious topper to almost any grilled beef, fish, chicken or pork.
It can be swirled into yogurt or sour cream to make a savory sauce that’s both great for topping meats or using as a dipper for vegetables in an appetizer spread. Consider serving it with veggie fries such as parsnip fries or green bean fries.
I like to use it in quick lunches when making something like a sardine salad or salmon salad. And, it’s a great spread for taking any sandwich to the next level like this smoked gouda roast beef grilled cheese.
Pesto is the ultimate all-around sauce. There’s really no wrong way to use it.
Storing the pesto
Keep any leftover ramp pesto stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to a week.
It can also be frozen easily. To do this, spoon the pesto into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop out and keep them in a freezer bag. It’s the perfect way to portion out the pesto for future use.
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! I’d love to know how it goes. Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Tag @runningtothekitchen on Instagram & Facebook.
- 2 bunches fresh ramps washed with roots trimmed off
- 1 cup loosely packed basil
- 1/2 cup loosely packed parsley
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Process until finely minced, scraping down sides as needed.
- With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until smooth. Add more oil or water if desired for a smoother consistency.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Use as desired.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Watch the web story: How To Make Ramp Pesto.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.