Photograph by Jasmine Wiggins
Photograph by Jasmine Wiggins

Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonara With Ramps

If anything embodies local and seasonal food, it’s the ramp.

A delicate plant with green leaves, ruby red stems, and white bulbs, ramps grow wild in the woods of eastern North America. They are foraged by ramp hunters and brought to farmers markets each year in early spring to a growing crowd of anxious enthusiasts. The wild leeks have a unique flavor of garlic and nuanced spring onion. The tender leaves melt in your mouth. These fleeting flavors beg to be paired with eggs. I added them to a spaghetti carbonara for a spring meal worth waiting for.

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Photograph by Jasmine Wiggins

Spaghetti Carbonara With Ramps

1/2 pound spaghetti
4 ounces cubed pancetta
2-3 bunches of ramps
2 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

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Photograph by Jasmine Wiggins

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Wash ramps in cold water. Remove and chop ends. Carefully slice leaves in half lengthwise.

3. Cook the pancetta in a pan over medium heat until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Remove pancetta and drippings and set aside.

4. Cook pasta to al dente, and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Leave a bit of pasta water in the pot too, to keep the pasta from sticking.

5. In a bowl, whisk eggs together. Stir in Parmesan.

6. Add a couple teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, and add the ramp stems, crushed red pepper, a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add ramp leaves and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Add pancetta to the pan, followed by the pasta. Use tongs to combine the ingredients.

7. When all the ingredients are heated through, remove from heat and add the egg mixture to the pan. Toss or stir, so that the eggs do not scramble. Add pasta water a little at a time to thin sauce to desired consistency. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.

This story is part of National Geographic‘s special eight-month Future of Food series.