Bostonians – are you loving this weather or what? After such a long, hard winter, it’s been glorious to bask in the sunshine and finally step outside in shorts (!). Spring is also one of my favorite seasons because of the unique produce that pops up during this time of year. I’ve been seeing lots of asparagus, morel mushrooms, ramps, and fiddleheads at the restaurants around me.
I recently started a new job that’s located about a 2-minute walk from Whole Foods.
It’s so dangerous!
I’ve always liked going to the Whole Foods salad bar for lunch. Yes, it’s definitely pricey, but it’s hard to get such a wide variety of high quality fruits and vegetables everyday for lunch otherwise (we’ll see if that changes once my CSA farm share begins!). I usually try to keep my lunch around $7-8, which isn’t horrible. I like how I can sample random things I would probably never buy outright, like seitan, various types of marinated tofu, various Ethiopian “sauces”, and other unusual grains. It’s also a simple way to get lots of different fruits without committing to larger packages.
The more dangerous part about visiting Whole Foods is not the salad bar. It’s the produce section.
I really shouldn’t “just stop by to see what they have” so regularly. But I can’t help it.
And then I spot the ramps or the fiddleheads, and my restraint breaks completely.
Before you know it, I’m holding onto bags of random spring vegetables plus my little carton of salad from the salad bar and I’m ringing up a $30 “lunch”.
My ~ $20 worth of spring vegetables plus the gorgeous spicy fennel sausage I got at Savenor’s in Cambridge still cost a lot less than a similar quality meal at a restaurant. Better yet, we get to open our own wines, relax at home, and (sometimes), have enough leftovers for the next day.
This pasta recipe incorporates ramps, (optionally) fiddleheads, and spicy sausage. It is crazy simple and absolutely delicious. You can definitely finish everything in less than 30 minutes, maybe even less if you are speedy. Perfect for a quick, weeknight meal.
When a recipe is this simple, quality of ingredients is very important. I love the meat products at Savenor’s, and their spicy fennel sausage is really good. I pretty much just use one link for the two of us, removing the casing and breaking it up in the pan.
Having really good pasta makes a huge different too. I tried this recipe twice, once with fresh pasta from a local vendor in New Hampshire and once with a dried pasta from Italy. Though both were tasty, the version made with fresh pasta was far superior largely because the pasta itself had such an incredible texture and was so flavorful.
Make sure to generously salt the pasta water and bring it to a rolling boil. Little things like this surprisingly make a big difference. I’ve learned (from experience!) not to take shortcuts in this area.
I’m sure you can be creative with this recipe. I have found that the tastiest version was the simplest. In fact, my favorite version of this dish only had ramps and sausage (no fiddleheads!). I think the ramps flavor come out more when there isn’t competition from the fiddleheads. However, I do love fiddleheads so the version with them in it was still tasty, it just had less ramps flavor.
In any event, have fun with this, especially since ramps season is almost over.
- Ramps, 1 large bunch (4-6 stalks)
- Olive oil, 1 teaspoon
- Fiddleheads (optional)
- Sausage, 1 large link, about 6-8 oz
- Pasta, 12 oz, fresh, or 8 oz dried
- Chili flakes (optional)
- Parmesan, grated (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If making dry pasta (8-12 min cook time), add pasta to the pot before beginning to cook the ramps. If using fresh pasta (1-2 min cook time), begin making pasta after the "sauce" part is done.
- Cut up the ramp bulbs (white section) into small pieces and separate it from the leaves. Coarsely chop the leaves into 1-2 inch sections.
- Saute the ramps bulbs in olive oil over medium heat until they soften, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the sausage and break apart the meat with a spatula.
- Add the ramp greens and the optional fiddleheads.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once pasta is done cooking, add the cooked pasta and some pasta water (maybe start with ¼ cup?) to the ramps/sausage mixture and stir it all together.
- If you want it spicy, optionally add red pepper flakes. Since my sausage was spicy I didn't add any.
- Optionally serve with grated Parmesan or Reggiano cheese on top.