Ramp Pesto and Pickled Ramps



Looking for some new twists this ramp season? Thanks to our new contributor Tara, we are now well versed in a pickled and pureed version of this early spring vegetable that let us savor it for much longer. She makes the increasingly popular ramps so appealing that they were a top trade at a recent Boston Food Swap, an organization she co-founded that lets local food lovers swap abundant homemade, homegrown or foraged food with each other. The local traders are about to celebrate their 1st Birthday…stop by the party and share your own ramp recipes with Tara.   – Maggie

Like any produce with a short growing period, ramps season is a bittersweet affair. The arrival of these wild baby leeks is heralded as the start of spring, yet in just a few weeks, they are nothing but a memory.

Since they are foraged, ramps aren’t available everywhere, which just fuels their cult-like following. This year, I joined the legion of revelers. But I have protection from ramp withdrawal: I preserved these lovely alliums for future enjoyment.

Delicate in flavor and in constitution, I discovered that ramps are the Victorian lady of the produce section. They should be handled gently and used quickly, because the leaves have a tendency to bruise and wilt. If you need to keep them for a couple days, wrap a damp paper towel around the root end of each bunch and store upright.

A ramp has two parts: the stem and the leaf, which lend themselves to different preservation techniques. Though double the work, it’s also double the payoff in ramp-y goodness for weeks to come.

Those fussy leaves make a vibrant spring pesto when combined with parsley and pistachios. Simply tossed with whole grain pasta, mixed into a compound butter, or as a dressing for roasted vegetables, the ramp pesto lends a mild garlic flavor to a dish.

If you’re angling for some acidity with a hint of onion in a dish, pickled ramps know no limits: top roasted meats or fish, add to a cheese or charcuterie plate, or even use instead of cocktail onions in a classic Gibson. I didn’t want to overpower their natural flavor, so I kept the spicing minimal with peppercorns, star anise, bay leaves, and a single dried habanero.

I’m no stranger to the world of preserving, but this was my first time working with ramps. Judging by how popular I was at our latest food swap, I think I succeeded. If you try out either recipe, I’d love to hear what you think!

Have you had ramps before? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Ramp Pesto and Pickled Ramps


For the Ramp Pesto
  • 2 small bunches ramps, about 1 lb
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley leaves, large stems discarded, about 1 cup
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper
For the Pickled Ramps
  • 2 small bunches ramps, about 1 lb
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 Tbs whole black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 dried habanero peppers or 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs salt, plus more for blanching liquid


Making the Ramp Pesto
  1. Toast the pistachios in a dry skillet until fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Rinse the ramps under cool running water. Trim off the leaves, leaving about ¼ inch of green on the stem. Set aside stems for pickling (or another use). Discard any bruised or wilted leaves.
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch parsley leaves for 1 minute and shock in a bowl of ice water. Blanch ramp leaves for 30 seconds and add to the ice bath. Drain and dry thoroughly, by wringing out excess water with a kitchen towel.
  4. Add pistachios, ramps, parsley, parmigiano, salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped.
  5. While pulsing, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the the processor in a steady stream until the mixture forms a paste of the desired consistency.
  6. Use immediately, store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for future use.
Making the Pickled Ramps
  1. Trim off the ramp leaves, leaving ¼ inch of green on the stem, and set aside for pesto (or another use). Use kitchen shears to cut off the root end of the ramps, leaving as much of the bulb intact as possible. Rinse under cool, running water to remove the film from the bulb.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch ramps for 30 seconds, then shock in a bowl of ice water. Drain.
  3. Divide the ramps between your 2 pint jars. Add 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 1 star anise, 1 dried habanero, and 1 bay leaf to each jar.
  4. Dissolve vinegar, sugar, and water in a pot over high heat. Add salt and remaining peppercorns, star anise, and bay leaves, and boil for 1 minute. Pour hot vinegar mixture into each jar. Cover and seal. If water bath canning, process for 10 minutes. Let sit on the counter undisturbed 8 to 12 hours. Jars sealed with water bath canning are shelf stable; if not processed, store in the refrigerator.
All photos styled and photographed by Tara Bellucci.

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  • A jar of pickled ramps gets me excited for my next martini. 🙂 xox

    • Tara Bellucci

       Well, it IS Friday! You deserve a cocktail 🙂

  • Chez Us – Denise

    Hi Tara,  

    Welcome to EB.  I am so glad to “virtually” meet you.  I am a huge ramp lover, and have not been able to find them out in the Bay Area as of yet.  I am afraid that we will not be enjoying them this year.  I’d love pickle some, and your recipe looks (and sounds) fantastic!  Cannot wait to check out the Boston Food Swap.  Denise

    • Tara Bellucci

      Thanks, Denise, it’s great to “meet” you, too. I’m actually heading out to SF in a week! What’s best in early/mid May on your coast?

  • Hello Tara, a big welcome to EB! I just discovered ramps this year and have planted some at home. I hope they take and look forward to trying these recipes next year!

  • Great article and photographs, Tara!  I just stumbled upon this and then was so excited to see that it was yours…really nice meeting you at the Blog Better Boston conference!