Ramps. Ramps. Ramps. The best thing about spring is ramps. Because I grew up in the Southwest, I had never even heard of ramps. But, my first spring in NYC, all I saw at the Union Square farmer’s market were stacks and stacks of ramps. So I bought a small bunch and I was hooked from the first taste.
Ramps are hyper-seasonal and are sometimes called wild leeks or spring onions. While they do belong to the same family (Allium) they are neither leek nor onion. Ramps are foraged as opposed to cultivated. As far as I know, attempts to farm ramps have failed and they only grow in the wild. Here’s an article from Eater if you want to learn more about ramps.
Ramps have a mild garlic flavor with a hint of leeks. They taste amazing sautéed in butter or bacon grease. I’ve made them with eggs and even added them raw to a salad. Chefs and cooks also like to pickle the stems to preserve them beyond early spring.
Because of the garlic notes, I thought they would be great with pasta. Pasta carbonara is pretty easy to make and a favorite at my house. Traditionally, pasta carbonara is made with peas. I decided to substitute the peas in the recipe for the ramp greens and use the ramp stems in place of the garlic.
This has become, hands down, my favorite way to eat ramps and my favorite way to make pasta carbonara. The mild yet wild taste of the ramps works perfectly with the bacon and creamy egg sauce.
Prepare the egg sauce before the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is added; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
Don’t forget to reserve the pasta water. In the heat of the moment, I often forget to reserve some pasta water when I drain the pasta. You will need to add some of the pasta water as the egg & cheese sauce is setting to make it creamier. The starchy pasta water works way better for this than just plain water.