Ask a dozens chefs to name a cult ingredient and they’ll likely all give the same reply: ramps.
Each spring these wild alliums — cousins of garlic, shallots, leek and the like — sprout feral from the forest floor and instantly appear at markets and on menus across the city. The season is only a few weeks, during which chefs sear, grill, braise and pickle with abandon.
One of our contributors, Peter Barrett, forages his own ramps up in the Hudson Valley, but Greenmarketeers know to hunt them by the bunch among the aged apples and potted purple petunias. Farmer Fred Wilklow is the most reliable source in Brooklyn, selling the prized, pungent product at his stand each Saturday at Fort Greene, Brooklyn Boro Hall and Grand Army Plaza — where you might run into the chefs from Franny’s. Follow them down Flatbush and you can order ramp pizza washed down with a ramp Gibson cocktail. Or just go home and cook up your own.
Either way, feast til your pores stink. Like forsythia, ramps are everywhere right now, but wait a few weeks, and they’ll be but a memory.
6 ounces young ramps, 1/8 to ¼ inch thick, ends trimmed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1 pound bucatini
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
About 3 tablespoons finely grated pecorino Romano, plus more if desired.
Rinse the ramps under cold running water to remove any grit and dry them well on paper towels. Separate the leaves from the bulbs. Cut the dark green leaves into 3-inch pieces and leave the bulbs whole.
In a very large skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Add the ramp bulbs and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with a large pinch of salt and the chili flakes. Add the ramp greens and toss until wilted, about 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan. Remove from the heat.
In a large pot of well-salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until 2 minutes shy of al dente; drain.
Toss the bucatini into the skillet with the ramps, along with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cook over medium heat until the pasta is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes, adding more water if the sauce seems dry.
Divide the pasta among four individual serving plates or bowls and finish each with 2 teaspoons or more of pecorino Romano.