Spaghetti with Ramps at Franny’s

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The “r” word made its first appearance on Twitter last week when one of the many food people I follow announced that they spotted ramps at the Union Square Greenmarket. “Ramps are here!” another cheered and, as happens every year, the ramp-lovers went on a rampage.

I’m a ramp liker, not a ramp lover. What are ramps? Ramps are really mild, skinny onions that pop up at farmer’s markets around springtime and are prized by chefs for their delicacy and their uniquely mellow flavor. I know that David Chang likes to pickle them (there’s a recipe online for that somewhere) and other chefs might use them in a sauce or a soup, but the best use for them I’ve yet encountered was the dish I ate last night at Franny’s: a simple and beautiful spaghetti with ramps.

As you can see from this old post, I’d attempted to make a dish like this once myself in 2006. But what I didn’t get then but that I do get now, after Franny’s, is that it’s best to use long skinny ramps whole in the spaghetti rather than buying fat ramp bulbs and cutting those up into slivers (which is what I did way back then.) If you buy long, skinny ramps, saute them in a little butter and olive oil, cook your spaghetti and use the cooking water to make a bit of a sauce; when you finally add the spaghetti at the end (along with some toasted bread crumbs), the long skinny ramps join the noodles in a ramp/spaghetti gestalt that’ll have you doing a springtime jig.

And a springtime jig is what I felt like doing last night after eating this: it tastes so, so springy. After a whole winter of Key Food garlic and onions–stale and soulless, sitting there under those fluorescent lights–the ramps in this pasta were like a beautiful gift from Mother Nature. They were indeed delicate and mild, but really fragrant and fresh. I may have started this post saying I’m a ramp liker, not a lover; but after this, I’m not sure: I think Franny’s made me a convert. Head to a farmer’s market this weekend, buy some ramps, make this dish and become a convert too.

10 comments

  1. I think you’re right—people love ramps not because they’re really mindblowing (though I do like them a lot) but because they’re special harbingers of spring, available for a limited time only, the first taste of fresh green after so many root vegetables.

  2. Oh what a timely post! I have been seeing ramps for the past couple of weeks and came quite close to buying some but the only thing I could think of do with them was grill them which seemed a little boring. I will be sure to pick up a bunch this Saturday now that you have enlightened me as to their uses!

  3. I agree with you in that ramps are best simple and plain. I am jealous because they are hard to find around here. Oh yeah and the worst crime of them all is our farmer’s market does not open for another couple of months.

  4. That’s amazing, because yesterday I went for a run along the river on the West Side Highway just south of 125th and there were three Chinese girls sitting on the river bank pulling out what I now know to be ramps.

    I stopped and spoke with one of them who told me that they picked them and they were like a scallion but different and that she only knew the Chinese word for them. She said they used them in a Chinese dish with potatoes and tomatoes. Then she said they only came at this time of the year! That’s brilliant, mystery solved. And if you’re interested there were plenty along the river bank.

  5. Ramps are one of the things I miss most about living in NYC. Well, they fall well below empire apples, cocktail bars and taxis, but they’re in the top 20.

  6. I think we call ramps “Wild Garlic” over here in the UK. Every chef on TV is raving about them, and I’ve been meaning to try them for years. In fact, you used to be able to smell them growing “free range” in the woods near where I live about this time of year. Perhaps I should get foraging.

  7. Ramps, now see that is an ingredient I need to use in a recipe just to make all the moms in the room stop chit-chatting to stare at me and wonder how I cnamake something so ‘fancy’. ha

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