Every year, around this time, I eagerly check the weather report for temps to consistently reach the 60s, for leaves for form buds on the trees, and the arrival of spring vegetables. Ramps had a frenzied moment, but I sort of feel like their novelty has died down these past few years, which is great because they're not always sustainably foraged. Luckily, the place where I get them out in the suburbs has not had its supply depleted at all, and so Michael and I return every year to grab a bag or two, taking care not to deplete entire clumps or areas.
To our great surprise and delight, this year we discovered that we have an abundance of ramps on our farm! This is our first spring at Bugnut and it's been so fun witnessing the process of everything coming into bloom, though it's still quite bleak in some areas. I can't wait to forage for mushrooms and other edible plants in the coming months.
This ramp Carbonara is truly inauthentic, but requires so little effort and ingredients on hand. I always find that preparing food simply always enhances each ingredient more so than a complex recipe, and this one is perfect for bringing out the sweet onion-y characteristics of the ramps.
Ramp Carbonara (serves 2)
Note: For those who already regular cook Carbonara, use your favorite method (mine is by Serious Eats), tossing in the grilled ramps at the end. Things tend to move quickly here, so make sure to prep your ingredients beforehand.
- 1/2 pound spaghetti or bucatini
- approximately 1/2 lb of fresh ramps, cleaned and dried
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup diced guanciale or pancetta (I use bacon in a pinch)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
- kosher salt
- olive oil
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
You will need to set out 3 containers: a cast iron pan or grill pan used to cook the bacon and ramps, one pot to cook the pasta, and one large metal mixing bowl that will be used to toss everything together.
First, prep the sauce by adding the two egg yolks, half the pepper, and cheese in the mixing bowl. Whisk or mix with a fork and set aside.
Heat up the cast iron pan on medium heat and add the guanciale with a glug of olive oil. Let the fat render, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. If it looks like it's burning or cooking unevenly, turn the heat down a bit and keep stirring. This should eventually yield a tablespoon or two of fat. Once this is done, pour off the fat and guanciale into your mixing bowl containing the other sauce ingredients and return the pan to the same burner, turning it to high. Using the same pan, "grill" the ramps by adding them to the pan and turning them over sparingly so that their bulbs get a bit of char. Add about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt to season them. If they seem like they're crisping or burning, add a bit more olive oil.
While that is cooking, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. I like to use a shallow saute pan with a lid, actually, because it uses less water and can still fit the spaghetti without breaking it. Cook the spaghetti to just short of al dente. Once it's ready, turn off the burner and add the spaghetti to the metal mixing bowl, using tongs to lift the spaghetti out in order to preserve the pasta water. Keep it moving once it's in the sauce, using a ladle to add up to 1/4 cup of pasta water to loosen up the sauce if needed. Continue tossing until all strands are coated with an even layer of silky, creamy sauce. Lastly, add the ramps and additional pepper, to taste. Give it one more toss to mix, and then serve immediately.
Wine: Because of the creaminess of the pasta and smoky flavors from the ramps and pork, this dish would go great with anything medium-bodied with sufficient acidity such as neutral-oaked Chardonnay, an Umbrian white, or a cold climate Pinot Noir, served slightly chilled.