Friday, January 7, 2011

Ramp Pesto with Whole Wheat Penne & Cherry Tomatoes

Ramps--one of West Virginia's greatest natural resources, or at least I think so. If you're not familiar with ramps, they're similar to a leek or scallion in both appearance and strength of taste; however, their flavor is so distinct that you'll never mistake a ramp for any other vegetable.

In recent years ramps have found their way into upscale restaurants, but long before that wee Richele was out in the woods digging ramps with the fam.That's right dear readers, true West Virginians don't buy ramps at a store, you go out in the woods (preferably near a "crick") and dig them up yourselves. 

Mom, Me, PopPop, and Granny
Pictured right you'll find me with my mother and grandparents (the former residents of Spring Maples) out on a dig. My mother informed me that I had nothing less than 3 pairs of shoes with me, so looks like that whole shoe addiction thing has been an issue for quite some time.

Anyway, ramps don't pop up 'til Spring, at which time I will post LOTS of ramp recipes. In the mean time, I was digging through my freezer and discovered some ramps that I blanched and froze last spring and forgot about 'til now. Ramps in January? Yes please!

I wasn't sure how the frozen ramps held up, so I decided to make a ramp pesto which was pretty amazing. I kept it simple and paired it with some whole wheat penne and sliced tomatoes. Select family members were a little weirded out by the initial color of the pesto, but once they tasted the final ensemble they shut up--mainly because they were stuffing their mouths full of pesto-coated penne.

 Ramp Pesto
3 Cups - Ramps
1/3 Cup - Soy Nuts
2/3 Cup - Asiago Cheese
2/3 -1 Cup - Olive Oil 

- Pulverize ramps, soy nuts, and cheese with an immersion blender or in a food processor or normal blender.

-Drizzle in olive oil while blending.

- Add salt and pepper to taste.

to make the rest of the dish....
-Halve a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes and sautee 'til slightly soft.

- Prepare pasta as directed.

- Combine pasta, pesto and tomatoes, and toss 'til pasta is thoroughly coated in pesto.

- Top with remaining shredded cheese.

As a bonus, here's another picture from my ramp-digging adventure :)

Wee Richele circa April 1984

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