Pasta with Ramps and Pancetta

Close up on a white bowl of gnocchi green ramps laced throughout,

Finally – a ramp recipe that’s not pesto.

By Erin Henderson

I love May. It’s one of my favourite months for cooking. The first of the season harvest: asparagus, fiddleheads, fava beans and ramps burst into spring with their verdant glory, and only weeks later disappear until next year.

I take full advantage. I cook daily with these fleeting vegetables, stuffing myself silly until I just can’t take it anymore. Asparagus tarts and soup, fiddlehead risotto, favas go into a Roman-inspired spring vegetable stew or top a ricotta smothered crostini…. But when it comes to ramps – the youthful, wild leeks found by intrepid foragers deep in Ontario’s forests – I come up bupkis. The only recipes ever proffered for these delicately flavoured alliums is pesto.

There’s only so much pesto I can eat. So I did what any bold cook would. I embarked on a Campbellian Hero’s Journey to find other ways to use ramps.

My culinary pilgrimage was justly rewarded as I discovered the below recipe on the James Beard website, written by New York restauranteur, and Anthony Bourdain mentor, Pino Luongo. I’ve adapted it slightly to fit my tastes, as I expect you will, as well. But it is a true and excellent dish to feature and celebrate ephemeral ramps.

Ramps on a wood board

Gnocchi with Ramps and Pancetta

Mr. Luongo uses bucatini pasta – a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the centre like a straw – in this recipe, but I like it with ricotta gnocchi, which gives an extra layer of richness. 

I have a big salt tooth, but find there is enough salt in the pancetta, stock, cheese, and the seasoned pasta water so I don’t add any extra. If you feel your dish needs some, season carefully when you add the wine.

Makes: About 8 servings
Chef level: Easy

  • 8 cups ricotta gnocchi (get the recipe here)
  • 1 large bunch ramps
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 150 g cubed pancetta
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Parmesan cheese, for grating
How to Make It:
  1. Soak the ramps in ice cold water and rinse well to get off the dirt.
  2. Slice the white portions into thin rounds and slice the green leaves, vertically, into long strips.
  3. Warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a wide pan and add the pancetta, cooking until the meat softens and releases some fat, but doesn’t crisp, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced white ramp roots and cook quickly, stirring often until they soften and become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and allow it to reduce to half, about 10 minutes.
  6. (Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.)
  7. Once the wine has reduced, add the chicken stock and allow it to simmer, reduce slightly and thicken.
  8. Meanwhile, while this is happening, set up a large pot of water for the pasta and bring to a boil.
  9. Season with a handful of salt and add in your gnocchi.
  10. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, use a slotted spoon or spider to scoop them into the sauce. Leave the pasta water on the stove.
  11. Add the reserved ramp greens, butter, and lemon zest, and stir to coat and cook through for about a minute.
  12. Add in the lemon juice and stir again.
  13. If your sauce looks dry, add some pasta water a tablespoon or so at a time, until it loosens how you like.
  14. Spread the finished pasta onto a serving platter, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.
Wine Pairing

The vegetal brightness the ramps and lemon bring to the dish, alongside the rich texture of the gnocchi and cheese makes me want a wine with herbal flavours to match, but with fresh acidity to lighten the robust weight of the pasta.

I like a simple Sauvignon Blanc for this. The fruit-forward versions from South Africa would be lovely here.

Related: How to Pair Wine with Spring Vegetables

Hear From Real People!

The unique programs and the tour we did with you was a huge success. Guests really enjoyed the afternoon!
I wanted to thank you again for last night. Everyone had a great time, and I received a lot of compliments, on your behalf. You struck a great balance between being informational and entertaining. 10 out of 10.
Wow, Emily was absolutely fantastic! She was patient, explained the wines well, and was a delight to work with.

Thank you so much for everything I will definitely use your services again.
The Wine Sisters put on magnificent event in Unionville..... They did a superb job, both as Sommeliers and on the PR and overall event co-ordination ... Great job and we look forward to working with you on our event!
You and your team were an absolute pleasure to work with! From the get go, you were very flexible with our needs, communicated in a timely manner, and tailored your services to be exactly what we asked for.
Our guests had a great evening and Erin made sure that everyone (even non-drinkers) enjoyed themselves! Thanks for making the bridal shower so memorable!
Bravo! You were awesome and I loved the presentation, explanation and selection of wines! I just had to reach out and thank you for a wonderful evening. You two are fabulous – great energy and you really like what you do.  You make tasting wine fun!
You were great and hilarious, and made everyone feel comfortable. Appreciate your time with me and helping pull this event together.
Everything was perfect and very personalized! We still talk about experience and how nice it was. Definitely memories our family will treasure forever.
Everybody had a ton of fun and we very much see this structure as a template we can use with clients and friends in the future.

Instagram Feed

Follow on Instagram

For support issues or any questions, please email us at

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to be the first to know about our wine recommendations, cocktail recipes, and great tips for throwing fabulous parties.