Penne Pasta and Fresh Ramps – My wife makes this dish for us at least twice during the ramp season and it is easily one of my favorites.
Here, ramps are cooked with extra-virgin olive oil and tossed with pasta and Parmigiano Reggiano, a wild play on the classic Italian pasta with garlic, pepperoncino, and greens.
This dish is also delicious made with pancetta instead of the olive oil. Dice the pancetta and cook, covered, until crisp and the fat is rendered; then proceed as directed.
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh ramps
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or half oil and half butter
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried Italian red pepper (pepperoncino) or red pepper flakes
1/2 pound dry pasta, in any shape, such as penne, linguine or orecchiette
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
To prepare the ramps, trim off the roots with a paring knife and slip off any discolored or dead skin that clings to the bulbs. Wash the ramps in several changes of water and drain well. (As you clean the ramps, stack into loose bundles, so the bulbs and leaves are lined up; this will make them easier to cut). Place on a cutting board and cut off the bulbs; cut the leaves in half crosswise. Reserve both bulbs and leaves. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
In a large non-stick skillet set over low heat, combine the ramp bulbs, olive oil and 1/3 cup water; cover and cook until the bulbs are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the pepperoncino and cook, tossing frequently, about 1 minute. With a tablespoon, scoop about 1 tablespoon of the oil into a small bowl and reserve. Add the ramp greens to the pan along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 3 tablespoons water. Cover and cook over moderately high heat, tossing frequently, until the greens are tender and the water has completely evaporated, about 5 minutes. (If the water evaporates before the greens are cooked, add a tablespoon or two more to the pan. If too much water is left in the pan once the vegetables are cooked through, uncover, increase the heat to high and boil it off, or simply drain it off). Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bulbs and greens are meltingly tender and the
greens are no longer stringy. Turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, salt the boiling water well. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still slightly firm to the bite. Using a measuring cup, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta well.
Pour the reserved cooking water back into the pasta pot. Add the reserved ramp oil, and the cooked ramps and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Add the drained pasta and toss to coat, seasoning with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Divide the pasta among four warm shallow soup bowls, spooning some of the vegetables over each. Serve at once, passing the cheese on the side.