Ramp up your pasta game with this spring season carbonara.
Wild ramps make a brief, glorious appearance in spring. This simple wild ramp pasta recipe combines carbonara and fresh wild ramps for an easy, incredible result.
Meet this ramp pasta recipe.
There are the usual signs of spring: cherry blossoms! Tulips! Birds! April showers! Pollen! And then there is an even better sign of spring: Ramps. Buy a couple of bunches, then make the absolute best of this special season by turning them into a silky, fresh recipe for ramp pasta carbonara with chives.
These ephemeral spring beauties, found at farmers markets and smaller indie produce markets right about now, are worth seeking out.
What are ramps in cooking? Vegetables? Wild leeks? Yes.
Ramps are a wild spring onion, with a delicate taste somewhere at the nexus of leeks, chives, and maybe a hint of garlic.
Sometimes called wild leeks, ramps have two long, flat leaves and a very short growing season (just a few weeks). Ramps are usually are foraged and harvested in the wild. This makes them a little bit elusive — and very exciting to get a hold of while they last.
What do ramps taste like?
I member of the allium family, ramps taste like very gentle cross between scallions and chives. They have a lovely flavor that is best left uncomplicated to let the natural taste shine.
Can I substitute wild ramps in a recipe?
What if you can’t get a hold of ramps? That is ok, too. Just toss in a full half cup of minced chives instead of two tablespoons. This will give the dish a similar delicate onion flavor.
Making This Ramp Pasta Recipe
Pasta carbonara is traditionally made with spaghetti, which gets folded into a silky, rich sauce made from egg yolks, cheese, and guanciale or pancetta — though a non-smoky bacon will work fine.
A note on the cheeses: I call for two cheeses here, equal portions of salty pecorino-Romano and sharp aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. But do not sweat it if you only have one. Your carbonara will still taste great. No need to make things complicated.
Because pasta carbonara only has a few ingredients, this spaghetti and ramp pasta recipe lives or dies by proper technique. There is no butter or cream in carbonara sauce, just eggs and cheese.
The most common technique mistake is overcooking the eggs in the pasta, which happens by dumping the egg and cheese mixture into the hot pan with the pasta, pancetta, ramps, and chives. This results in spaghetti coated with a thousand tiny bits of grainy scrambled egg. It will still taste ok, but does not look appetizing.
How to make ramp pasta with a silky smooth carbonara sauce:
This is a three-vessel pasta dish: you will need a pot for cooking the pasta, a skillet for cooking the pancetta and ramps, and a mixing bowl for whisking the eggs and cheese and tossing the pasta at the end.
The prep time is only about 5 minutes. The cook time is about 15 minutes, making this a perfect, quick dinner.
Here are the ramp pasta recipe steps:
- Cook the pasta until barely al dente. I suggest a long pasta like spaghetti or linguine.
- While the pasta cooks, cook the pancetta, followed by the chopped ramps, in a wide skillet over medium heat until the fat renders and the ramps are wilted.
- Transfer the pasta into the wide skillet with the cooked bacon and ramps, and give it all a good toss with a bit of pasta water.
- Transfer all of that into a large mixing bowl with the eggs and cheese, and stir until the dish comes together and is coated in the sauce. The heat from the hot pasta will “cook” the eggs just enough.
Here’s a good carbonara pro tip: Temper the eggs by whisking in a tablespoon of hot pasta water before adding the spaghetti. Just a few good ingredients and a few steps are all you need to make the best pasta you’ll have all spring.
How to Store Fresh Ramps in the Refrigerator
Ramps are delicate. Want to store them so they stay bright and green and don’t go all wilted or slimy? Check out How to Store Fresh Ramps.
Love spring vegetables like wild ramps? You might also like:
Spring Ramp Pasta Carbonara
- 2 bunches fresh ramps
- 3 ounces diced pancetta
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly-grated pecorino-Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced chives, plus more to garnish
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 12 ounces (about 3/4 box) spaghetti or other pasta
- salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
- Rinse the ramps and pat them dry. Roughly chop the leaves into large pieces, then thinly slice the red stems and the white bulbs, discarding the root tips. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add the pasta.
- While the water is heating, in a large mixing bowl, combine the two cheeses, minced chives, egg yolks, egg, and big pinch of kosher salt and fresh pepper. Whisk it together with a fork until well combined.
- In a large sauté pan, cook the pancetta in over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the fat starts to render. (The pasta may be cooking by now.) Add the olive oil and ramp stems and bulbs and continue to cook for two to three minutes more, until the pancetta is cooked through and just browned, and the ramp bulbs are translucent. Add the ramp leaves and sauté for one minute more, until they are wilted and cooked through. Remove from heat but keep very warm. (You may have to turn the burner back on and reheat it just before the spaghetti is added.)
- Cook the spaghetti until just under al dente. Remove from heat. Do not drain. Using a set of tongs, drag the spaghetti into the bacon/ramp pan, bringing a little pasta water with it. Add a few big spoonfuls of pasta water to the pan. Cook the spaghetti with the pancetta and ramps, stirring frequently with the tongs, until the water is absorbed, and the spaghetti is al dente and coated with the bacon and ramps.
- Optional: whisk a tablespoon of hot pasta water into the egg mixture to temper it.
- Now transfer the spaghetti, pancetta, and ramps into the mixing bowl with the egg, cheeses, and chives. Stir vigorously for a minute or two, until it all comes together in a silky pasta dish and the sauce evenly coats the spaghetti. Taste for seasoning.
- Serve hot, garnished with a little extra cheese, pepper, and fresh chives.