An early sign that Spring is here is the arrival of pea shoots in New York’s farmers markets. The delicate greens have such a wonderful fresh taste with a hint of sweetness; and suddenly the dull salads of winter have new life.
Next to arrive are the ramps, the prized young wild leeks that are available only for a short time in Spring. Their taste resembles a cross between garlic and scallion, with leaves that are mild enough to be eaten raw when chopped up into a salad.
This year I incorporated both of those Spring staples in a simple pasta. I sauteed the more potent bulbs and stems of the ramps, letting the ramp leaves and pea shoots cook only with the steam heat of the pasta. Some good parmigiano reggiano and a runny poached egg formed a delicate sauce, letting the fresh taste of Spring produce shine through.
Pasta with Ramps, Pea Shoots, and Poached Egg
1/2 pound pasta shapes
A large handful of pea shoots
1/4 pound ramps
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Parmesan cheese, to taste (preferably parmigiano reggiano)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1. Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
2. Meanwhile, separate the leaves of the ramps from the stems and set them aside. Thinly slice the bulbs and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the leaves into 1-inch pieces, and place them in a bowl large enough to hold the pasta. Reserve a small handful of pea shoots for later and toss the rest into the bowl.
3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil with the bulbs and stems of the ramps. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the bulbs have softened, about 5 minutes. When they are done, add them to the bowl.
4. When the water has boiled, season it generously with salt and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente, keeping in mind that it will continue cooking a bit in its own steam after it is removed from the water. When the pasta is done, transfer it to the bowl with the greens, reserving the pasta water. After the pasta is removed, bring the water back to a gentle simmer.
5. Grate the parmesan into the pasta and drizzle on the remaining olive oil. Toss thoroughly to combine, letting the greens wilt from the heat of the pasta. Divide the pasta into warmed bowls for serving.
6. Add the vinegar to the simmering pasta water. Crack an egg into a small bowl and slide it into the water. When it has come together and the whites have just set (about 2 minutes), remove it carefully with a slotted spoon. Rinse it gently to remove the vinegar taste, dry it slightly by setting the spoon on a paper towel, and place the egg gently on top of the pasta. Repeat with the other egg.
7. Sprinkle each bowl with the reserved pea shoots and top with some freshly-ground black pepper. Serve at once.
Total time: 30 minutes
Makes 2 servings