Spring has officially sprung in New York: buds are out on the trees, forsythia is in bloom, peepers are filling our twilights with their song, and I found rhubarb and ramps at the farmer’s market over the weekend. Even better than peepers & ramps, Spring has brought Miss Kate back to the ‘hood, with canning classes last weekend in Coventry, demos in Manhattan this weekend, and a few days of relaxing Chez Local Kitchen in between.
I had the good fortune to attend Kate’s Sunday afternoon pressure canning class in Coventry, following a gorgeously sunny, top-down drive in 70-degree weather and the even better fortune of dinner with Kate & Kate at Firebox in Hartford (I heartily recommend the chickpea gnocchi). As if all of that weren’t enough, Kate (of Snowflake Kitchen fame) had battled the brambles and mud on the riverbank in her backyard to forage us some of the first ramps of the season. In case you weren’t aware, the universe practically demands something extra special be done with friend-foraged-and-gifted ramps. Hence: ramp & sausage lasagna.
“Lasagna?” I hear you say, witheringly. “Something special? Pfft.” But this, my friends, was no ordinary lasagna. Already elevated by the first wild ramps of the spring, this lasagna included homemade raw milk ricotta, freshly made whole milk mozzarella, crazy-delicious raw milk Vermont cheese, homemade & canned organic heirloom tomato sauce, and Catskills hickory-smoked pork & garlic sausage. When you have this kind of all-star food line-up, there’s almost nothing you can do to screw it up (even running out of propane for the stove and having to call Paraco for an emergency delivery couldn’t put the kibosh on this meal).
And so: lasagna. Kate & I chopped and grated, simmered and layered. We tucked those layers of goodness carefully into the (thankfully re-fueled) oven and let them all get acquainted. Tai was home at a reasonable hour (rare in the busy spring season) and as it happened, my friend & colleague Jim was in town, so he came over to join the fun. And then we all relaxed, inhaled some crunchy, salty and preserve-y snacks, not a few rhubararitas, and waited for the main event: creamy, sausage-y, rampy, tomato-y, bubbling browned-cheese glory. Ramp & sausage lasagna: worthy of Spring.
- olive oil
- 2 healthy bunches new ramps (about 5 oz), coarsely chopped (ours were foraged & gifted by Kate!)
- 1 lb smoked pork sausage, casings removed and sliced (I used pork & garlic from Mountain Products Smokehouse)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 quart tomato sauce (I used homemade & canned sauce with fresh oregano & thyme)
- 1 and ½ lbs whole milk ricotta (I made mine from Stonewall Dairy raw milk)
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella
- ½ lb sharp cheddar (I used “unusually sharp” Crowley Cheese)
- 1 box lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used gluten-free Tinkyada organic brown rice noodles)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Sauté ramps. In a medium Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add chopped ramps and sauté until just softened, about 3 – 4 minutes. Remove to a clean bowl and set aside.
- Make sauce. Add 1 more tbsp olive oil to the pot (if necessary) and heat to a shimmer. Brown sausage (in two batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan) turning as needed to brown both sides. Add sliced garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Deglaze with a splash of red wine vinegar, scraping up the fond. Add tomato sauce, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over lowest heat while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Add ricotta cheese to ramps and season with salt & pepper. Stir well to incorporate ramps evenly throughout the cheese. Grate mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.
- Assemble. Taste the sausage tomato sauce and season as necessary. Spread a small amount of sauce (about a ½ cup) evenly into the bottom of a 9″ X 13″ lasagna pan. Lay down your first layer of noodles. Dollop with about ⅓ of the ricotta then ladle about ⅓ of the sauce. Spread evenly with a spatula, then top with about ⅓ of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Add the next noodle layer, pressing pasta firmly into the first layer, then repeat layering. For the top layer, use the remaining ricotta and tomato sauce and a small amount of grated cheese: reserve the majority of the remaining cheese to add at the end.
- Bake lasagna. Spritz a piece of tinfoil, large enough to cover the baking dish, lightly with olive oil spray. Cover the pan tightly (oiled side down) and bake in the preheated oven until bubbly and pasta is nicely al dente, about 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle remaining cheese over the top, and bake uncovered until cheese has browned, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 8 – 10.
- I used gluten-free pasta because Miss Kate was visiting and I have to say: the noodles were excellent. I would not have known it was brown rice pasta. I guess I lucked out, because Kate told me that Tinkyada is her favorite brand. Obviously, if you don’t need to avoid gluten, any pasta noodles will do. It seems that homemade pasta would be especially good here.
- Surely you can add modifications to the sauce: fresh or dried herbs, onions or other aromatics, wine, chunky tomatoes, etc. But, with homemade tomato sauce, good quality pork sausage, homemade raw milk ricotta, freshly made mozzarella, raw milk aged sharp cheese and ramps(!): this dish is already over the top. Much more is just gilding the lily.
- It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating: ramps, due to their vast deliciousness and coveted food status, are endangered due to over-harvesting. If you are buying ramps at your farmer’s market, please do your best to ensure that the ramps are harvested sustainably. If you are lucky enough to find your own patch of wild ramps, please make sure that you harvest responsibly.
Refrigerated, for up to 5 days.