Thursday, May 7, 2009
Ramps and a Walnut Sauce for Pasta
What are ramps? Ramps are a type of broad leaf wild leek that grows in Appalachia, and probably elsewhere. They have a very strong onion flavor and should be used judiciously. Ramps are beloved by chefs and foodies in our area. They hold festivals to celebrate the ramp in many cities within an hour of where we live. Ramps are one of the first signs of spring in the mid-Atlantic area and they are at Whole Foods now. Since we have ramps, I thought they would be great in a spring pasta dish and decided to create a quick and easy pasta dish that had a creamy comfort sauce.
All nuts can be used to make a nice creamy sauce. I choose walnuts because of the recent news that came out of the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research that suggests eating 2 ounces of walnuts per day may help ward off breast cancer. Prior studies have also suggested that eating walnuts may help undo the damage unhealthy fats do to our arteries. With these health benefits you can feel better about feeding this “cream” sauce to your family.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Asparagus and Ramps in Walnut Sauce
Makes 2 dinner servings
½ cup of walnuts
1 cup of water/pinot grigio or vegetable broth
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
¼ pound of ramps, finely sliced
10 – 12 ounces of fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch segments
8 ounces of whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon of walnuts, finely chopped
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water for 2 minutes less than the package directions.
While the water is coming to a boil put the walnuts, water, salt, garlic powder and cornstarch in a blender and process until the sauce is completely smooth. Pour the sauce into a large skillet (big enough to handle the pasta and sauce) and heat over medium heat while whisking until the sauce begins to thicken. Turn off the heat and prep the ramps and asparagus.
When the water comes to the boil and pasta has begun to cook turn the heat back to medium on the saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of water to the sauce and continue to whisk until the consistency is how you like it. Add the veggies to the sauce when the pasta is five minutes from being removed from the heat. Add the almost cooked pasta to the sauce and veggies and toss to coat. Add more pasta water as is necessary to form a nice sauce. Cook the pasta and veggies for two minutes to finish the cooking of the pasta during which time it will absorb some of the sauce.
Garnish the pasta dish with freshly minced parsley and chopped walnuts and serve.
This is a very mild sauce with a subtle garlic flavor. I wanted the sauce to be mild so the light flavor of the asparagus would not be overwhelmed by both the sauce and the little bites of ramp. I wouldn't add any more ramp due to their strong flavor. There were just enough of the ramp to taste them, without them taking over the dish. Next time I may add some fresh morels or fiddleheads to this dish.