Last spring, my quest for ramps was epic yet ultimately futile. Turns out you have to get to the farmer’s market when it opens at 7am, and I think the earliest I ever managed was 8am. 7am on a Saturday is a lot to ask, even for ramps. But this year my neighbor introduced me to a vegetable delivery service which supplies ramps, and I can finally be a proper foodie.
If you are unfamiliar with ramps, they are a seasonal craze that has admittedly gotten a bit out of control in recent years. They’re really a wild form of onion, and were once so abundant along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River that Chicago takes it name from a Native American word for ramps. They smell grassy and garlicky and tastes like a cross between onion and garlic, its sharp punch of flavor mellowed by a touch of sweetness. They are admittedly delicious, but what makes ramps the unicorn of the allium family is their short season (a brief few weeks) and their wild provenance.
I choose to pair my ramps (well, half of them) with the classic Italian carbonara: bacon and egg pasta. The creaminess of the pasta sauce helps mellow the ramps, and bacon is a friend to all the alliums. This is a pasta carbonara the way I and the traditional Italian recipes prefer it, which is minus the cream. If you aren’t willing to go to lengths to obtain ramps, leeks or a spring garlic would be good substitutions: they just need a few more minutes to cook.
1/2 pound pasta of your choice (I used campanelle)
2-3 slices thick sliced bacon, chopped=
1/2 pound ramps, trimmed, with stems thinly sliced and leaves chopped into 2-inch pieces
1/3-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
As pasta cooks, beat together eggs, cheese, and about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving a tablespoon of the fat. Toss in the ramps, and saute 2 minutes.
Combine hot pasta, ramps mixture, and bacon in the pan. Add pasta water and egg mixture, stirring to form a sauce that coats the pasta.
Serve and enjoy!