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Ramp Pesto with Mushroom Tortellini and Veal Loin Chop

In my quest to begin cooking like spring was actually here, a few Fridays ago I set out to make a pesto. It worked out, because ramp season is in full effect. Over the last few years, New Yorkers have grown bonkers about ramps. What are they, you may ask? In all honesty, they are a humble plant in the onion family, with a garlicky flavor and cute as a button. As the food scene in this city and many across the country are growing more interested in getting back to wholesome and real ingredients, little farm stands and local procurers have been growing in popularity. And this is great, not only for small business owners to join the protest against factory farms and GMOs, but also because we city folk can enjoy the fruits of their labor as they continue to churn out great product.

Off the soapbox and back to the pesto. My husband is not a big fan of pesto, and by not a big fan I mean he doesn’t care for it at all. He doesn’t like pine nuts, and claims a pesto is always “too…(makes face)…” I get it, babe. Too much olive oil and it’s an oily bath with bits of pine nut and basil swimming around the plate. Too much basil and it’s a dried-out mush party. My solution? Ramp pesto with tortellinis and a veal loin chop.

While I set up a cheese board, cocktails, and pulled the veal from the fridge to let it rest at room temperature, Frank came home carrying a surprise bouquet of yellow flowers to distinctly cut off the crappy day I had and commence a happier weekend because he is amazing. Love him. Then I started on the pasta dough and the filling. For the filling, I quickly sautéed hen-of-the-woods mushrooms in a pat of butter, seasoned, and a teeny amount of diced shallot. Once cooled, I mixed in just enough mascarpone to hold the filling together and give it some tang.

Tortellini seems to be a shape that my hands are terrible at forming, so I tend to avoid it from happening fairly often. Which isn’t very fair, because Frank’s favorite type of pasta is tortellini. The problem, it seems, is that my hands are not connected to an old, Italian-speaking grandmother wearing a housecoat. So rather than forming thimble-sized gems of perfection, my method includes more cursing and cutting corners. Not in the sense that I’m slacking off, but somehow I’m literally cutting corners of dough away in order to wrap them tightly so that the ratio of filling is larger than squished dough.

Okay, so that exercise in patience finally ended and the torts sat dusted in flour to prevent them from sticking to the counter. I moved on to searing the veal, seasoned of course, over high heat in the same pan that the mushrooms had been cooked in. Our little fire Marshall sat at terrified attention from the foyer, as our ineffective exhaust fan refused to suck up excess smoke. (Don’t get me started on the construction of our building.) Once the veal was resting on the cutting board, I blanched some fava beans and then pulled the pesto together.

This is where the ramps came into play. I chopped up equal parts basil and ramps, added a hefty amount of the necessary Parmigiano, salt and pepper, then bled the olive oil in as I worked the bowl with my new* hand immersion blender. No pine nuts, no extra garlic, but this version of pesto had just what I wanted - an aroma of spring.

I sliced the medium-rare veal into slivers, and plated everything together - veal, tortellini, beans and sauce. I don’t remember what the salad was that accompanied this, but it was most likely something extra crunchy and spring-like. Everything on the table was pastel-y and bright.

My husband finished his plate, so let us now proclaim that he is a convert to at least one particular version of pesto. The moral of the story? Ramps make life better and everybody wins.

*Perhaps we can recall the story where I decided that a hand blender could grind meat? Well, they can’t.

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