Ramp Pesto

4.95 from 17 votes
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Ramps right out of the woods.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Pesto can be made from really anything: We’ve all seen pesto made with basil of course, but you can also use mint, parsley, cilantro and other herbs. In this case I am making ramp pesto, although you can use other green onions, wild or cultivated.

When I make pesto I want it to last a while in the fridge, so I blanch the greens first. You don’t have to do this, but blanching your green things goes a long way to preventing the dreaded “brown pesto” problem we all face with unused pesto. Blanching kills the enzymes that cause browning.

Here’s how I blanch my green onions for this recipe:

  • You will need two or three big handfuls of fresh ramp leaves, about 2 cups, chopped more or less — only you’re not chopping them yet. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt.
  • Toss the ramp leaves into the boiling water. Stir around and boil for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Fish them out with a skimmer or the tongs and immediately dump them into a big bowl with ice water in it. Once they are cool, put them in a colander to strain.
  • Get a cloth towel, like a tea towel, and put the ramps in it. Wrap one end of the towel one way, then the other end of the towel the other and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
ramp pesto recipe in a bowl
Photo by Hank Shaw

My favorite way to use this pesto is with pasta, especially nettle pasta or the easy-to-make pasta shape called gnocchi ricci. It’s also good spread on toast, or with white meats like chicken or pheasant, or with firm fish such as sturgeon, swordfish or tuna. Play around with it. you’ll find what suits you best.

Store any unused ramp pesto in the fridge, topped with some olive oil to keep the air out. It’ll keep this way for a week or so.

ramp pesto recipe
4.95 from 17 votes

Ramp Pesto

Any green onion, wild or cultivated, works with this recipe. I've done it with ramp leaves as well as the leaves from Sierra Nevada wild onions, chives, garden-variety scallions and whole three-cornered leeks. If you don't like pine nuts, pecans, walnuts and almonds are fine, too. If you've never toasted nuts before, put them in a steel pan over medium-high heat. Shake the pan frequently so you don't burn the nuts; pine nuts are especially persnickety this way. Pour the nuts out of the hot pan when they get a little brown on the edges.
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 minute
Total Time: 16 minutes


  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
  • 3 tablespoons grated cheese, such as pecorino
  • 2 cups ramp or other wild onion leaves, about 2 dozen
  • Salt to taste
  • About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • f you are blanching your onions, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Set a large bowl of ice water nearby. Plunge the ramp leaves into the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and quickly cool them down in the ice water. Squeeze dry with a tea cloth or paper towels.
  • Chop the ramp leaves and set aside. Pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, thus the name, which means "pound." You can of course make this in a food processor, but it will not be the same. To start, add the toasted pine nuts and garlic and crush them.
  • Add the cheese and ramps and commence pounding. Mash everything together, stirring with the pestle and mashing well so it is all fairly uniform.
  • Start adding olive oil. How much? Depends on how you are using your pesto. If you are making a spread, maybe 1/4 cup. If a pasta sauce, double that. Either way, you add 1 tablespoon at a time, pounding and stirring to incorporate it. When it's a nice rough paste, taste it and add salt if you need to; sometimes the cheese makes the pesto salty enough by itself. Serve as a spread on bread, as an additive to a minestrone, as a pasta sauce or as a dollop on fish or poultry.


If you are using a food processor, add everything but the oil and pulse to combine. Then, turn the motor on the processor and drizzle in the olive oil. Be careful not to let the mixture become a smooth paste!


Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 20mg | Potassium: 30mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 410IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. With acres of ramps in Randolph County WV there’s little danger of over harvesting.
    I always use the bulbs and leaves together. When I think Pesto, I think basil. I added dried basil to the recipe and it’s perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Delicious! So far I’ve used this on pasta with shrimp, and in a white bean salad. I have a hard time not just eating it with a spoon.

  3. Since ramps have a garlicky flavor, the next batch of pesto that I make will not have garlic. I put in 3 garlics but doubled everything else and it was still too garlicky so I added a squirt of fresh lemon juice and that helped.

  4. Just like many other recipes from Hank Shaw, this one is a winner. I make a big batch every spring and freeze in ice cube trays for single serving portions to use throughout the year.

  5. Excellent simple recipe. Lasted a week for me even without blanching. Tasted great on Pizza as well as pasta.

  6. picked some last night before the snow fall, made this recipe this morning before i brew. this is the best pesto i’ve ever had. glad i doubled it!!

    1. Dug up the leeks yesterday, let them rest on the barn floor today to dry the dirt, cleaned and cliped the leaves and make this pesto.I used roasted garlic infused olive oil and colliers welsh cheese, came together well.

  7. Got enough ramps this week to finally try this recipe. Good stuff. I’m sure my wife and kids will be asking for it again this time next year!

  8. Friend gave me a bag-full (3,4 lbs?) of Ramps they’d ‘harvested’ out of their woods a few days ago. I used your Pesto recipe for dinner, wife and I enjoyed it over spaghetti greatly! Thanks!
    AND there’s plenty left over for other uses this next week!

  9. I pickle the bulbs, make pesto with the leaves, also roll some tuna salad or bluegill salad

  10. Your photo is of ramps picked incorrectly, which kills the plants–they will not grow again in that spot. Just pick the leaves and leave the bulb in the ground.

    1. Darrah: There is no correct or incorrect way to pick ramps. There is absolutely nothing wrong with picking bulbs from a spot if you do so sustainably. Overharvest is the problem. There is a difference.

      1. Hank,
        Sustainable foriaging is the key to years of enjoyment so you are correct. Thank you for the recipes.

      2. My husband gathered more ramps than we could eat, so I pickled the bulbs and stems, and used this recipe to make pesto with the leaves. I did blanche the leaves, since I already had a big pot of boiling water from water bathing the pickled ramps. I also used what I had on hand, so I substituted pecorino for freshly grated Parmesan, and used roasted salted cashews for the nuts. I spread it on my homemade fennel seed and rosemary sourdough bread for lunch. Absolutely delicious!

  11. Love this recipe. I usually pickle or pan fry the ramp bulbs and this makes great use of all those ramp greens I have leftover. Despite the online cautions of canning pesto, I’ve always pressure canned my extra pesto. It loses some of the bright green color of a fresh made batch but it still tastes amazing long after its canned.

  12. Next time you make it (hurry, when the trees leaf out the wild leeks say goodbye quickly) add sauteed stinging nettle tops to the pesto. Very yummy mixed with leeks.

  13. I totally agree with the blanching suggestion, a trick I learned from my Grandmother who lives in Greenbrier county WV, (where they still send children home from school if they’ve eaten ramps the previous evening). I’ve made this version a few times and is a wonderful way to eat ramps but I admit I don’t always blanch them. Black Walnuts can add an earthy taste and smoked almonds are equally wonderful. As an accompanyment to morels and/or fresh trout this is a celebration of spring in the Appalchians.

  14. We adore pesto and often make it fresh at home, but I’ve never thought to put anything oniony other than garlic into mine.
    I’ll look for ramps at our farmers’ market, but may run to the store for scallions tonight just for a test run.

  15. I just made this the other day, and it’s absolutely fantastic!

    And great tip about blanching – blanching not only helps maintain the green color of this pesto, but it also seems to mitigate the “ramps are so strong that I have ramp breath and I’m sweating ramp-scented sweat for days” effect, too.