Ramp Pesto Makes about 1 cup

12 ramps, about 2 bunches 3 cups packed baby spinach 1 cup cherry tomatoes ½ Meyer or regular lemon, zested and juiced 2 tablespoons Red Sparkenhoe cheese, grated, more for garnish ¼ cup blanched almonds, toasted, divided ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt and black pepper Freshly toasted breadcrumbs, optional for garnish Toss the ramps with a little extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a hot grill pan and cook until the white parts wilt and the leaves char slightly. About 3 minutes. Remove from pan and place in the bowl of a food processor. Place spinach directly into the pan and season with a sprinkle of salt. Cook until the leaves wilt slightly and begin to give off their liquid. About 2-3 minutes. Remove and add to the food processor. Add the lemon, zest, cheese and 2 tablespoons of almonds to the processor. Pulse until chopped slightly. Add the oil and pulse until the pesto comes together but is still chunky. Toss with your favorite pasta and garnish with tomatoes, cheese, reserved almonds and fresh breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.
Chefs Note: In 2005, husband and wife David and Jo Clarke decided to revisit a lost art in cheese makingtraditional Red Leicester. Leicester cheese dates back to the 1700s, but many of the traditional practices went by the wayside with the development of industrial cheese making systems and governmental rationing during World War II. Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, originally ceased production in 1875 when it became fiscally unsound for the farm. The Clarkes, with generations of family-farming history in their lineage, have since resumed cheese making on the original Sparkenhoe Farm. Sparkenhoe Red Leicester is actually the only Leicester currently made in the traditional manner, using raw cows' milk from a farm located within Leicestershire County, England. And the resulting cheese has a stunning orange interior and rich flavor profile. The aroma is initially somewhat musty with hints of earth, having been lovingly wrapped in cloth for at least six months. A bright note of acidity is followed quickly with a deep flavor of smokiness.

For more information on Chef Maria check out her website at www.bellacucinamaria.com