Linguine with ramps and shrimp

Garlicky, oniony ramps – 'wild leeks' – star in this simple, seasonal pasta dish.

Blue Kitchen
A simple pasta dish with shrimp and seasonal ramps.

Farmers markets seem to be leaking into supermarkets. Or at least influencing the better ones. There is more emphasis on seasonal and locally grown in the produce section – like at farmers markets. The most recent example for us was this past weekend at our neighborhood Mariano’s. They had ramps. Hyper-seasonal, local, often foraged ramps.

Mariano’s, a relative newcomer, has been shaking up the Chicago supermarket landscape. They’re expanding aggressively and carving out a position that is part Whole Foods, part everyday grocery store done better. Yes, they stock all the day-to-day goods in the brand names we know. They also have well-stocked deli, seafood, meat and cheese departments. And sushi bars and wine bars and oyster bars. Gelato bars. And live piano music played on baby grands near the checkouts.

And last Saturday afternoon, in their produce section, they had ramps. These were organically grown, not foraged. The ramps had just come in – the produce manager who was unpacking them hadn’t even assigned a computer code to them yet for checkout. And although we had no idea how we would use them, we nabbed a beautiful bunch.

Ramps, also called wild leeks, are something of a mashup of garlic and onions, with the aroma of the former and a mild (but lingering) taste of the latter. And like scallions, you can use the white parts and the leafy green parts. For more about ramps, including their range, history and sustainability, check out this vegetarian pasta dish (topped with a fried egg!) Marion made with them.

Linguine with Ramps and Onions
Serves 3 to 4

12 ounces uncooked linguine
1 bunch ramps (there were 9 in mine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces uncooked small-to-medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
juice and zest of 1 lemon

1. Start a pot of water to cook the pasta. Meanwhile, prep the ramps. Rinse them carefully, including the leaves. They can tend to be sandy. (Although these farmed ones were pretty clean.) Trim off root ends and chop the white and pale green parts. Stack leaves (in a couple/few batches) and slice them on the diagonal into 1.2-inch or so strips, discarding the dark stems.

2. When water comes to a boil, salt generously and add pasta. Cook according to package directions until la dente. Drain and set aside, reserving 1-1/2 cups pasta water.

3. In a large, deep skillet or sauté pan, heat oil and butter over medium flame, swirling to combine. Add chopped white and pale green parts of ramps and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add sliced green leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until they wilt and soften a bit, another 2 minutes. You don’t want to brown the ramps, just sweat them. The fragrance now will be something wonderful – like onions, but more subtle, deeper.

4. Add shrimp and cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Turn and cook for about 1 minute longer. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add most of the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat with butter and oil, and to mix everything together. Add more pasta unless it threatens to overwhelm everything else. Add cooking water a little at a time if pasta seems too dry.

5. When pasta is just heated through, remove from heat and toss in lemon juice and zest. Plate in shallow bowls, spooning extra ramps and shrimp from the bottom of the pan over individual portions. Serve.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Spicy Shrimp with Tomatoes and Cheddar Grits

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