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  • Writer's pictureEd Joice

Improvisation: Wild Ramp Pesto

Updated: Mar 17

Pesto, like its English cousin pestle, is derived from the latin word for “to crush”. In the case of this sauce or condiment, it is in reference to its traditional preparation. These days, though, most folks just buzz it up in a food processor. Honestly, that’s what I do and it tastes great. Some swear, however, that the best pesto is made in the traditional style. I think it’d be fun to compare two pestos made with the same recipe but differing only by the machine used for their preparation and see which is better. But I digress.

Pesto recipes typically call for garlic and some sort of green leaf, typically basil. Because ramps are both garlicky and leafy greeney, they are perfect for pesto. If you come across a field of ramps, pesto is a fantastic way to use a bunch up. If you blanch the ramp leaves first, this stuff will keep frozen for up to a year (or more), so you can make huge batches and store them in your freezer in meal sized freezer bags.


20 large ramp leaves

4 to 5 cloves of ramp bulbs (or cloves of garlic)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 c walnuts

½ c parmesan cheese

Salt to taste

Pepper (optional)

½ c extra virgin olive oil (+¼ c for later)


First, add ramp leaves to mortar (or food processor) and start working it into a paste. Then add next ingredient and incorporate into first. Keep doing this going down the list. Periodically throughout add olive oil when it seems that the mixture needs more moisture. At the end of mixing and when you are scooping the pesto into a jar add the ¼ c of olive oil to ensure its fairly wet throughout the profile of the jar.

Taste as you go. Add more of whichever ingredient you love most for taste, texture and aesthetic. Also consider switching it up and doing red walnuts for more color and richer, more buttery nuttiness if you like the sound of that. Enjoy this as a spread on sandwiches, on pasta of course, or smeared on lasagna. You really can’t go wrong.

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