Springtime Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramps

Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramp Pesto

It’s taken me awhile to put together this post.  I was very happy with how this recipe turned out, and was looking forward to sharing it.  However, things have been a little hectic around here lately.  I’m sure many of you have been in similar situations before, where it feels difficult to accomplish the things that are part of your normal routine?  Lately, I’ve felt like that.

I created this recipe to showcase the super-seasonal fiddlheads and ramps that can be found at Farmers @ Firehouse and other farmers markets around the city.  Unfortunately, I think the short window of time where you can find fiddleheads is rapidly coming to a close. On the upside, you can substitute easily substitute asparagus (which is much easier to cook).  And I’m pretty sure you can still find ramps – I even saw them at Giant Eagle a couple days ago.  So, without further delay, on to the recipe!

The ramps and ferns in this recipe were purchased from Mushrooms for Life.  And the edible flowers were a mix including kale and chive flowers from Blackberry Meadows Farm.  Both can be found at the Farmers @ Firehouse on Saturday mornings in the Strip.  Frozen gnocchi, pancetta, parmesan and pine nuts were purchased from PennMac.

This recipe serves four.

1 bunch of fiddlehead ferns
1 bunch of royal ferns
1/4 lb diced pancetta
1 cup ramp pesto
2 packages of frozen gnocchi
1 handful of pine nuts
Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Edible flowers, for garnish
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Edible Flowers

1.  If your fiddleheads looked like mine when I bought them – covered in their fuzzy husk – you’ll need to clean them before cooking them.  The husk can be rubbed off pretty easily, but I’ll warn you – it can be a little tedious.  The longer, skinnier royal ferns had much less fuzz, but I did my best to rub off as much as I could.


2.  Trim off the stem of the fiddleheads leaving only the spiral tops and a small bit of stem.  Discard the stems.

3.  Trim off the lower portion of the royal fern stems, similar to how you’d treat asparagus spears.  Discard the stem bottoms.

Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramp Pesto

4.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, add both the fiddleheads and royal ferns.  Boil for 15 minutes.  This may seem excessive, but it is extremely important as undercooked fiddleheads can make you ill.

5.  While the ferns are boiling, prepare an ice bath by combining 6-8 ice cubs along with salt and water in a bowl.  Once the ferns are done boiling, immediately place them in the ice bath to stop the cooking.  Set aside.

Ferns Ice Bath

6.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  I add about 2 tablespoons of salt to my 8-quart pot.

7.  While the water is coming to a boil, heat a bit of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Once the pan is warm, drop in the pancetta and cook until it’s rendered to a crispy golden brown.  Remove the pan from the heat – place the pancetta on a paper towel and  set aside.


8.  After the pancetta is removed, add the ferns to the pan and saute for a few minutes until they begin to brown just a bit.  Season with salt and pepper.

Ferns Cooking

9.  Add the frozen gnocchi to the boiling water.  Cook according to the instructions on the package.  If there are no instructions, boil them for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on them as they cook.  Note that once the gnocchi are added to the water, it is important that the water return to a boil as soon as possible – cover the pot if necessary.

10.  Once the gnocchi are cooked, add them to the pan with the ferns.  Add the pancetta and ramp pesto.  Toss everything together.

Ramp Pesto

11.  Garnish the gnocchi with toasted pine nuts, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and edible flowers.

Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramp Pesto

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.