Ramps, aka wild leeks, grow all over Illinois and throughout the Midwest for a very short period of time in early spring. My son sustainably forages these beautiful, slender plants and blesses me with a bouquet of these garlicky gems. I have pickled them for the past couple of years and decided to try making pesto with this year’s bounty. The result produced a recipe for a fresh, garlicky, and bright condiment that will complement almost every springtime meal and of course is perfect on pasta too.⁠ Spread on bread and broil, or marinate fish or chicken to give it a nice zing.


  • 1 bunch ramps
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts, or hulled sunflower seeds, optional
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Romano Pecorino


  1. Remove the leaves from the bulbs by cutting the leaves above where the bulb begins. Wash and dry the leaves. Reserve the bulbs for another use (see Notes).
  2. Combine the ramp leaves, nuts or sunflower seeds, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor or high-speed blender and pulse to process for about 1 minute, or until a paste forms.
  3. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is creamy. You may need to add more olive oil to get the mixture to the consistency you like.
  4. Keep the machine running and add the cheese, processing for about 5-10 seconds or until the cheese is mixed through.
  5. Toss with your favorite pasta or slather on some crusty bread. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.


Be sure to trim, wash, and save the bulbs to pickle or sauté to use in another dish. See Pickled Ramps.

Garlic is not necessary in this recipe. The ramps provide the garlic flavor.