Ramp Pesto Pasta with Shaved Asparagus

This recipe for Pasta with Shaved Asparagus and Ramp Pesto is easy to make and perfect for spring! The ramps are pungent and perfect for pesto, while the sweet asparagus balances everything out.

a bowl of spaghetti with shaved asparagus and ramp pesto.

Traditional pesto recipes use basil as the main green and star of the recipe, like the classic Pesto Genovese or Sicilian Pesto alla Trapanese.

This recipe uses ramp greens with the perfect balance of sweet asparagus and lemon flavor. It's a delicious way to start the spring season. 

Ramps are one of the first vegetables to hit the markets each spring and perhaps the most coveted amongst food fans. They're also the most elusive. Ramps are alliums considered wild leeks or wild garlic, and only show up for a few short weeks in early spring. They look a bit like green onions, but with tender, leafy tops, and have an intense garlicky flavor. 

Though they don't typically show up in grocery stores, you can usually find them at the farmer's market in the spring. And if you're lucky enough to find them, this pesto is perhaps the best way to enjoy them. Serve with pasta as the recipe calls, or save some extra pesto and make pesto pizza with this Neapolitan Pizza Dough. Pesto pizza isn't a traditional Neapolitan dish, but it's still delicious. 

If you're lucky enough to find ramps where you live -  run! Don't walk - to go buy them up and make this pasta. They'll only be available for a limited time.

Why This Recipe Works

  • A great way to use and enjoy ramps during their short season.
  • Lemon juice brightens the flavor of the ramps and adds a pop of acidity. 
  • Walnuts add great texture, omega-3 fatty acids and are less expensive than pine nuts.
  • A quick and easy meal that's ready in under 30 minutes!

Ingredient Notes

  • Wild ramps - A small bunch of fresh ramps, about 8-12, depending on size, cleaned, ends trimmed and cut in half will be used. You'll use the ramp bulbs and the ramp leaves. Fresh ramps can usually be found between mid March through mid April. Look for them at farmers markets or order them online.
  • Walnuts - I love walnuts in this recipe, but if you don't have any, you can use pine nuts or almonds. 
  • Lemon - The lemon juice will provide the acidity to balance the strong flavors of the ramps. Use a fresh lemon for the juice in this recipe. 
  • Olive oil - Use a good extra virgin olive oil. You'll use quite a bit in this recipe so you want to use a high quality, fresh olive oil.
  • Parmesan cheese - Use a good quality parmesan cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano. You'll freshly grate it when preparing this wild ramp pesto. Pecorino Romano can be substituted if you don't have parmesan. 
  • Pasta - This pesto pairs best with a long pasta such as linguini, spaghetti, bucatini or fettuccine.
  • Fresh asparagus - Remove the tough ends of the asparagus and shave with a vegetable peeler into long, thin ribbons. This adds the perfect balance to the strong flavor of the ramps. 

*Full ingredient list with quantities is in the recipe card.

A bowl of green pesto pasta and a fork with pasta twirled around it.

Helpful Equipment

  • Food processor - A food processor will blend the ingredients together for the perfect pesto texture. You can also use a high speed blender if you don't have a food processor. 
  • Vegetable peeler - Use a good vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus into thin ribbons. 
  • Cheese grater - A good cheese grater will help you easily shave your parmesan to use in the pesto and top your pasta. 
  • Large pot - You need a large pot to boil the water to cook your pasta. 

Step by step instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with water and place on the stove to boil.
  2. Add the ramps, walnuts, salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Pour in the lemon juice and let the motor run as you slowly stream in the olive oil to create a smooth sauce. Add the parmesan cheese and pulse a few more times until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Add a generous amount of salt, along with the pasta to the boiling water, and cook until very al dente. Drop the asparagus into the pasta water, gently stir and count to ten.
  4. Reserve a cup or two of the pasta water, then drain. Transfer the pasta and asparagus to a serving bowl and toss with the pesto, thinning out with a bit of pasta water as needed to make it saucy. Taste, adjust the seasoning as needed and give an extra squirt of lemon juice to brighten it up, if desired. Garnish with more grated parmesan and chopped walnuts and serve immediately.

Tips For Success

  • Ramps can come covered in dirt or mud. It's totally normal. To clean, rinse off the dirt, then place in a bowl of water in the sink and swish them around. If your ramps are really dirty, you may need to dump the water, refill and repeat. Pat dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels when done. 
  • I suggest eating this pesto fresh for best flavor (and pretty bright green color), but blanching the ramps first can help prevent brown pesto if you're planning to save for later.
  • If you can't find ramps at your local market, you can search online for a local retailer (sometimes you can have them shipped to you), or try making this pesto with spicy arugula and a few cloves of garlic instead.
A shallow white bowl filled with ramp pesto pasta and shaved asparagus.

Serving Suggestions

  • Ramp pesto pasta is delicious on its own, but you can serve it with a side of Meyer Lemon Focaccia or a crusty bread. 
  • Citrus Herb Grilled Shrimp is a great protein to serve with ramp pesto. It marinates for about an hour, but cooks in just 5 minutes, so it's an easy and delicious addition to this pesto pasta. 
  • These Pan Seared Scallops are ready start to finish in 10 minutes and are perfectly caramelized, buttery and tender. Add them for a delicious bit of protein!

FAQ

When is ramp season and where can I buy them?

Ramp season is from late April to early June, depending on location. Most likely you won't find them at the grocery store, but you can usually find them at farmer's markets. 

How to easily shave asparagus?

Shaving asparagus is much easier when you lay the stalk on a cutting board and shave a long ribbon. Then rotate and shave again. Keep rotating and shaving until you have a long, skinny piece left. This will give nice asparagus ribbons for this recipe. 

How to store and reheat Pasta with Shaved Asparagus and Ramp Pesto?

I recommend saving the sauce separate from the pasta as pasta can be tricky to reheat with a proper texture. 

This recipe is best when eaten fresh. If you're planning to store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days before eating, you may want to first blanche your ramps to help prevent browning. You can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Add to fresh cooked pasta and heat on very low to warm up. 

This pesto sauce freezes well (don't freeze the pasta). I suggest freezing in ice cube trays and once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe container, like freezer bags, and store for up to 3 months. The frozen cubes allow you to take them out and reheat as needed. Add to a pot or pan on the stove and heat on low until thawed. Then mix with fresh pasta. 

Spaghetti twirled on a fork next to walnuts on a marble counter.

Meta Description: This Pasta with Shaved Asparagus and Ramp Pesto is easy to make and perfect for spring! The ramps are balanced by sweet asparagus and lemon.

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a bowl of spaghetti with shaved asparagus and ramp pesto.
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Pasta with Shaved Asparagus + Ramp Pesto Recipe

This recipe for Pasta with Shaved Asparagus and Ramp Pesto is easy to make and perfect for spring! The ramps are pungent and perfect for pesto, while the sweet asparagus balances everything out.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 3 servings
Calories: 834kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch ramps about 8-12, depending on size, cleaned, ends trimmed and cut in half
  • ½ cup walnuts plus more for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste, plus plenty of salt for the pasta water
  • ½ small lemon juiced, (about 1 tablespoon) plus more for finishing
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup grated good quality parmesan cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, plus more for garnish
  • ½ lb long pasta such as linguini, bucatini or fettuccine
  • 1 bunch asparagus ends removed and shaved with a vegetable peeler into thin ribbons

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with water and place on the stove to boil.
  2. Add the ramps, walnuts, salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Pour in the lemon juice and let the motor run as you slowly stream in the olive oil to create a smooth sauce. Add the parmesan cheese and pulse a few more times until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. When the water is boiling, add a generous amount of salt, along with the pasta, and cook until very al dente. Drop the asparagus into the pasta water, gently stir and count to ten. Reserve a cup or two of the pasta water, then drain. Transfer the pasta and asparagus to a serving bowl and toss with the pesto, thinning out with a bit of pasta water as needed to make it saucy. Taste, adjust the seasoning as needed and give an extra squirt of lemon juice to brighten it up, if desired. Garnish with more grated parmesan and chopped walnuts and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Ramps can come covered in dirt or mud. It's totally normal. To clean, rinse off the dirt, then place in a bowl of water in the sink and swish them around. If your ramps are really dirty, you may need to dump the water, refill and repeat. Pat dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels when done. 
  • I suggest eating this pesto fresh for best flavor (and pretty bright green color), but blanching the ramps first can help prevent brown pesto if you're planning to save for later.
  • If you can't find ramps at your local market, you can search online for a local retailer (sometimes you can have them shipped to you), or try making this pesto with spicy arugula and a few cloves of garlic instead.

Nutrition

Calories: 834kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 30g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 407mg | Potassium: 314mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 328IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 340mg | Iron: 2mg

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13 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Where I have been that I have never heard of ramps before? Ok, I mean as a food haha! I live in NJ so ramps to us are on and off the highway.

    This looks amazing and I will have to see about getting some ramps and maybe even growing some (in a planter so they don't take over maybe if they are invasive.)

    1. I live in NJ too and we don't see too many ramps here (although they're around from what I understand! - ask your farmers market!). This recipe is one of my favorites - I'm looking forward to having it this week!

  2. 5 stars
    Omg.! This recipe is perfect and sublime! The ramps are a game-changer for a pesto. The walnuts impart an earthy texture to b as lance it all out. The asparagus just added the perfect touch for completion! Sharing with everyone!

  3. 5 stars
    Well, thanks a lot, Coley. Now what the hell am I going to do with all of my basil? Cathy licked the bowl when I tossed your Arugula pesto onto those stir fried veggie noodles. It really turned out so well that I may not make basil pesto this year!

    1. Yay!! That makes me so happy. There's always a place for traditional basil pesto, but the walnut/arugula or walnut/ramp pesto is such a tasty alternative. I'm so glad you guys loved it!! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    Dang, woman. I was intrigued by the ratios of your pesto so I whipped up a batch with arugula a few moments ago (sorry, no ramps at the Ack-a-me...). I am both an old-fashioned cook and as well as an old guy so I've always made this with basil, toasted pine nuts, garlic and a bit less olive oil because I tend to use less Parmesan. I thought that you finally blew one when I read your post. Not. The walnuts rock, the arugula is a delicious alternative and the ratios worked perfectly. This will wind up as the appetizer course tonight over spiralized zucchini noodles. I know it is going to be terrific.

  5. 5 stars
    This will also be a great reason to break open that olive oil I brought home from my trip to Spain. Also, was looking for an excuse to make asparagus in some way tonight.

    Thanks!