For perfectly crisp-tender asparagus, we peel the bottom half of the stalks before roasting them in the oven.
SERVES 4 to 6 FAST VEG
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Italian cooking brings out the best in seasonal vegetables, and one of the most elegant yet simple preparations is roasting. But when it comes to delicate asparagus, simply tossing the spears with oil, salt, and pepper and spreading them on a baking sheet doesn’t always produce reliably crisp-tender spears. After a few tests, we discovered that thicker spears (½ inch in diameter) held up better to roasting, but they required some prep. Trimming off the woody stems wasn’t even a question, but what to do with the tough skins? Though it seemed a little fussy, we found that peeling the bottom halves of the stalks—just enough to expose the creamy white flesh—delivered consistently tender and visually appealing asparagus. To ensure a hard sear on our spears, we preheated the baking sheet and resisted the urge to give it a shake during roasting. The result? Intense, flavorful browning on one side of the asparagus and vibrant green on the other. For some complementary seasoning, we again took our cue from Italian cuisine, preparing a bright garnish of minced fresh herbs called a gremolata . Fresh mint, fresh parsley, orange zest, minced garlic, and a hit of cayenne constituted our first version, and the more classic combination of tarragon, parsley, lemon zest, and garlic our second. Both reinforced the stalks’ vibrant flavor and gave our simple side a more distinct presence. This recipe works best with thick asparagus spears that are between ½ and ¾ inch in diameter. Do not use pencil-thin asparagus; it overcooks too easily.
2 pounds thick asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Peel bottom halves of asparagus spears until white flesh is exposed, then toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Transfer asparagus to preheated sheet and spread into single layer. Roast, without moving asparagus, until undersides of spears are browned, tops are bright green, and tip of paring knife inserted at base of largest spear meets little resistance, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer asparagus to serving platter and drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Serve.
Roasted Asparagus with Mint-Orange Gremolata FAST VEG
Combine 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons grated orange zest, 1 minced garlic clove, and pinch cayenne pepper in bowl. Sprinkle gremolata over asparagus before serving.
Roasted Asparagus with Tarragon-Lemon Gremolata FAST VEG
Combine 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, and 1 minced garlic clove in bowl. Sprinkle gremolata over asparagus before serving.
Trim woody ends of asparagus spears. Peel bottom halves of spears until white flesh is exposed.