If you have the luxury of having ramps available to you this spring, don’t hesitate to snatch a few bunches before the end of their season and make this quick ramp pesto.
Ramps are kind basically baby leeks, with softer leaves and a strong garlic/onion flavor. The smell of them raw is certainly potent. The whole vegetable is edible from the scallion-like bottoms to the leafy green tops.
For this pesto, however, you only need the greens. Save the bottoms and use them in place of your normal garlic and onions. They are NOT a thing to waste. I used most of the typical pesto ingredients you’re familiar with: pine nuts, parmesan cheese and plenty of olive oil. I also added some lemon. The ramp leaves obviously replace the traditional basil leaves, but go for half basil half ramps for a more gentle flavor. This ramp pesto certainly has some kick in it. If I didn’t make it myself, I would guess there were hot pepper flakes or some hidden spicy ingredient in there.
Instead of making pasta with the pesto, which would also be a fabulous idea, I made crostini. I love how the mild, rich ricotta contrasts the the sharp, spicy ramp pesto on these crostini. I think simple is best with this dish, but I do like to top it off with lemon zest, cracked black pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil to seal the deal.
I have one trick to share with you in regards to this recipe. I guess it’s actually more of a method then a trick. It’s how I toast my crostini. I did not by any means invent this method of toasting bread, but it soon became my favorite. Instead of slicing the baguette in slices and toasting as usual, I first crisped up the entire loaf intact in the oven. I put it straight on the grates, uncovered. Once it becomes crunchy all over, I slice it in half lengthwise and toast it cut-side down on a griddle. Then, voila. You have maximum outer crispiness while still maintaining a soft center. This way, that beautiful outer crust is put to good use. After toasting, simply cut it into bit size pieces and serve it, crust side down. Whether or not you give this recipe a try, I hope you consider a new method for crostini making.
- 3 cups roughly chopped ramp leaves (from about 2 bunches)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, finely grated
- Zest of half a lemon, plus more for topping
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 baguette loaf
- ½ lb fresh ricotta cheese (cow’s or sheep’s milk)
- Cracked black pepper
- Toast pine nuts: Add nuts to a small, room temperature pan. Turn heat to medium and toast, 4-5 minutes, tossing often until lightly browned. Remove from pan and let cool.
- Make pesto: Add nuts to a food processor and finely grind. Add ramp leaves and pulse until finely chopped. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Stir in cheese, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toast bread: Preheat oven to 350°F. Add whole baguette to oven straight on the rack, and warm for 5-8 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven. Heat a large flat top griddle or nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Slice bread in half lengthwise. Grease griddle. Place cut side of bread down on pan and apply slight pressure. Toast bread 2-3 minutes or until browned.
- Slice & assemble: Slice toasted baguette halves into 1 ½ inch wide slices. Slather on ramp pesto. Spoon over ricotta cheese. Top with black pepper, lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy.