Celebrate spring with this classic Italian dish
We know spring is here when locally grown asparagus starts popping up in our markets. So let’s bedeck ourselves with blooms and dig into a dish of Asparagus with Parmesan (aka Asparagi alla Parmigiana).
This simple, quick dish makes the perfect side or starter. You can even top it with a fried or poached egg for a light supper.
Now, don’t you just feel like hoppin’ down the bunny trail?
Recipe: Asparagus with Parmesan
How easy is it to make this dish? Just take cooked asparagus, layer it in a baking dish, and top with butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino Romano if you prefer a sharper flavor). You can even prepare Asparagus with Parmesan ahead of time, then warm it up (and brown the cheese) in the oven right before serving.
Ingredient quantities in this recipe are somewhat flexible. We generally use about one-third to one-half pound of asparagus per serving. But adjust to your own preferences.
This recipe takes about half an hour to prepare and serves two. You can easily double it.
- ~1 pound asparagus
- ~1 tablespoon kosher salt for seasoning the asparagus cooking water (see Notes)
- ~2 tablespoons butter
- ~1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino Romano) cheese
- Cut off the tough butt ends of the asparagus spears (remove about 2 inches). Rinse the asparagus. Fill a large frying pan about halfway with water and bring it to a simmer. Add salt to season the water, then add the asparagus spears. Simmer until the asparagus is tender (3 to 7 minutes, depending on how thick the spears are). Drain the asparagus, then immediately plunge it into a large bowl of ice water. Let the asparagus chill for a minute or two, then remove the spears from the bowl and spread them out on a kitchen towel to dry.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Position a baking rack in the upper third of the oven. Butter a baking dish (use one that’s just large enough to hold the asparagus in 2 layers – we often use smallish baking dishes that hold individual portions). Layer the cooled asparagus into the baking dish: Place one layer of asparagus spears on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle on some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and dot with butter. Then place another layer of asparagus spears on top of the first. Dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle on the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. (If you’re making the dish ahead of time, just cover it with plastic wrap at this point and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake).
- Place the baking dish into the preheated oven (remove any plastic wrap first). Bake until the asparagus is hot throughout and the cheese is nicely browned (10 to 15 minutes; a few minutes longer if the baking dish is cold from the refrigerator). You can run the baking dish under the broiler for a minute or two if the cheese isn’t brown enough for your liking.
- Portion the asparagus onto serving plates and enjoy.
- We suggest cooking the asparagus until it’s tender all the way through. In other words, you don’t want even the slightest “crunch” when you bite into the asparagus. The dish tastes better that way.
- Why plunge the cooked asparagus into ice water (Step 1)? Because doing so stops the cooking process and helps set the color of the asparagus.
- BTW, you can steam the asparagus instead of cooking it in simmering water. Or roast the asparagus (we haven’t tried that, but it sounds interesting).
- If you salt the asparagus cooking water, you probably don’t need to add additional salt to the dish. Plus, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is pretty salty. And you can always add additional salt at table.
- Speaking of salt, we use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- You can use domestic Parmesan (or Romano) cheese in this dish if you prefer (the stuff you buy in wedges and grate yourself; not the grated stuff in cardboard containers). But real Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy isn’t that much more expensive – and has better flavor. So we always splurge on that.
- We don’t think this dish requires additional flavorings. We suppose you could add some minced shallot or garlic, but that seems like overkill.
- Or you could add chopped prosciutto. We don’t recommend that If you’re serving this dish as a side. But if you’re serving it as a main (and this dish is so good, you’ll be tempted to), prosciutto would probably work well.
“Thumbs up for the butter and cheese,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “We need to call this dish sassparagus.”
“Yeah, Parmigiano-Reggiano has attitude,” I said. “It’s the big cheese.”
“I’m so glad your recipes kick asparagus,” said Mrs K R. “Because your jokes are pretty lame.”
“So you consider them cheesy?” I said. “I thought I was pretty gouda.”
“Nah, you bleu it,” said Mrs K R.
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