Thursday, May 5, 2011

Creamy Arugula Sauce with Ramps and Bacon

Ramps, bacon, and arugula are a winning combination in many different forms. Here the arugula is pureed (along with the leafy tops of the ramps) and stirred into creamy sauce perfect for topping pasta or polenta. The bits of ramps and bacon add nice little nuggets of flavor as you eat. If you prefer not to use cream, you can make a roux with butter and flour and add milk instead.

10-12 ramps (about 1 bunch)
6-8 strips bacon
1/2 lb arugula, washed
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the root ends off the ramps (as you would do for leeks or scallions). Rinse well to remove all dirt, and pull off any loose or ragged outer layers. Cut of the leafy tops, chop coarsely, and set aside. Slice the white parts and remaining stems into round about 1/8-inch thick. Set aside, separate from the tops.

Place the bacon in a single layer in a large skillet and fry over medium heat until they reach your desired level of doneness (for this dish, I like them a little short of crispy). Drain on paper towels. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, then add the slice whites and stems of the ramps. Saute for about 30 seconds, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the arugula and the ramp tops and saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until wilted.

Puree the cooked arugula and ramp tops in a food processor, then place them in a saucepan over low heat. Add the cream and stir to combine well. Warm through, then turn off the heat. Stir in the sauteed ramps and bacon and add salt and pepper to taste. Thin with water if desired (if you're making pasta, a little pasta cooking water is perfect for this).

Makes enough to serve with 1 lb pasta.

Variation: Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan to the sauce at the end.

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