Springtime ramps meet with creamy pasta carbonara in this foraged take on this classic Italian dish.
Spring has been slow to start with the snow following us all the way into May this year. Only yesterday I commented that our current weather has more in common with March than the first weeks of summer, and the plants agree.
Crabapples bloom everywhere I turn, their white and pink blossoms holding the promise of sunshine. It was just two weeks ago I noticed the first bits of rhubarb sticking out from the dirt, and the strawberry plants have finally started to fill out to create their canopies for the bright red berries to grow beneath them.
Like everything in my yard, the ramps were slow to appear at the market as well. Ramps, morels, and the first asparagus, oh my. Market day was finally abundant with more than plants for the garden (though I will take those, too).
I decided I wouldn’t let our delayed start on the season stop me from sharing this dish with you. It is a play on pasta carbonara, woodsman style with a bit of steak in place of bacon and ramps in place of shallots, onions, or garlic. The pairing of beef and ramp seems fated, with the bit of earthiness the sweet caramelized bulbs add to the dish. Heartier than your traditional carbonara, it still manages a delicate air about it.
While we paired it with a lasagnette pasta from the market, a simple spaghetti or pasta of your choice will also work.
Notes on Ramps and Such:
- Ramp season is early spring, even if early spring doesn’t happen until May in your area. In lieu of ramps, whether due to summer approaching or the lack of availability in your area, try substituting spring onions or blanched and chopped wild garlic.
- Ramps are also known as wild leeks – err, sometimes wild garlic, too, which can get confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for – (related to ramsons in the UK), and they have a garlic-like flavor about them. Both the tender bulb and green leaves are edible.
- Ramps are an oft-foraged food found growing along the deciduous forest floor. If you forage for ramps, be sure to only harvest 15% of what you find. Leave the majority of the pants in the ground for next year. In Quebec, ramps are a protected species, and in certain states like Rhode Island they are threatened because of poor harvesting practices. It’s important to preserve the plants so we can continue to enjoy them.
1 large bunch ramps (16-20 bulbs with greens)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 8-ounce ribeye (optional)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*1 cup reserved pasta water
salt and pepper
Boil the pasta according to the package directions. While the pasta is boiling, prepare the steak, ramps, and sauce ingredients.
Clean the ramps and separate them bulbs from greens. Julienne the greens, but leave the bulbs in one piece. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the steak and sear on both sides until rare. Remove the steak and add the ramp bulbs to the pan. Ten the steak with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cook the ramp bulbs 3-4 minutes before turning, allowing the white portion to start to caramelize and turn a golden brown. Continue to cook another 2-3 minutes.
After it has rested, thinly slice the steak. Add the steak slices and the julienned ramp greens to the bulbs and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the Parmesan cheese and whisk together. Using a ladle or a heatproof mug, reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. Stir 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water into the egg and cheese slowly, whisking while pouring.
Return the pasta to the pan and slowly pour the egg and cheese mixture over the pasta, stirring while pouring, to create a creamy sauce. Add in the ramps and steak, and stir in additional pasta water until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 servings.