Published On: Mon, May 9th, 2016

Four ways to use Asparagus

It takes time and space to grow, and its season is short, yet there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh asparagus. Here are four ways the Italians use it to help herald the arrival of summer…

1. Toasted ciabatta with pea and asparagus purée

Ciabatta con purè di piselli e asparagi

Aspargus 1

Serves 2

Preparation
15 minutes

Cooking
5 minutes

Ingredients

100g frozen peas, thawed

100g green asparagus, woody ends removed

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp freshly chopped mint

6 slices of ciabatta

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp crème fraîche

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying

1 tbsp pecorino cheese, plus shavings to garnish

Method

Cut the tips off the asparagus and reserve. Set aside 1 tbsp of peas. Put the peas and asparagus stalks, minus the tips, into a pan of boiling salted water and cook for a couple of minutes. Drain well and transfer to a food processor or blender. Blitz briefly until you have a rough purée, then drizzle in olive oil to loosen the mixture. Add the crème fraîche, pecorino and mint, then season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. If the purée seems a little thick, add more olive oil and blitz again.

Place the ciabatta slices under a hot grill and toast until browned. Meanwhile quickly sauté the asparagus tips and reserved peas in a little olive oil, until tender.

Spread the toasted bread while still hot with the purée. Top with the fried asparagus tips and peas and scatter the crostini with pecorino shavings. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.

2. Pappardelle with spring vegetables

Pappardelle alle primizie d’orto 

Aspargus 2

Serves 2

Preparation
10 minutes

Cooking
10 minutes

Ingredients

100g calabrese broccoli, divided into florets

50g mange tout

100g green asparagus, woody ends removed

30g unsalted butter

6 tbsp warm vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a small bunch chives

30g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

a pinch of saffron strands

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped

180g pappardelle pasta

Method

Set a large pan of salted water boiling on your hob and cook the pappardelle until al dente.

Stir the saffron into the vegetable stock and leave to infuse while you cook the vegetables. Bring some salted water to the boil and blanch the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Drain the vegetables, refresh in iced water and drain thoroughly. Heat the butter in a wok or a deep frying pan until it foams, add the garlic and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the vegetables, then the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, until al dente.

Add the drained pasta and lemon juice and toss well. Snip the chives and sprinkle over the pasta and vegetables. Serve the Parmesan cheese separately.

3. Asparagus risotto

Risotto agli asparagi 

StockFood_231188

Serves 4

Preparation
10 minutes

Cooking
35-40 minutes

Ingredients

250g asparagus, woody ends removed

1 shallot, peeled and finely diced

1 tbsp unsalted butter

200g carnaroli risotto rice

120ml dry white wine

250ml vegetable stock

30g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp freshly chopped mint

1 tbsp Parmesan shavings for sprinkling

Method

Cut the asparagus spears into 2cm lengths and simmer for 3-6 minutes in salted water. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Heat the butter in a pan until it foams, then add the shallots and sweat until soft. Add the rice, stir well and toast briefly. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated. Mix the asparagus cooking water and stock, then keep of warm in a saucepan over a low heat. Pour 2 ladlefuls of the stock onto the rice and cook over a medium heat, stirring, until it has been absorbed.

Continue to add the stock in this way, allowing the last ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next and stirring frequently. When the rice is al dente, stir in the asparagus tips, the remaining butter and the Parmesan. Stir in the mint and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on warmed plates sprinkled with Parmesan shavings.

4. Asparagus wrapped in Parma ham

Asparagi al prosciutto di ParmaAspargus 3

Serves 2

Preparation
10 minutes

Cooking
15 minutes

Ingredients

10 asparagus spears, woody ends removed

10 slices Parma ham

25g rocket

2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

5 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp white-wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Simmer or steam the asparagus for about 5 minutes in salted water, then drain, refresh in cold water and drain thoroughly.

Wrap each asparagus spear in a slice of ham and lay side by side in an ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground pepper. Mix the Parmesan with 3 tbsp olive oil and scatter over the asparagus. Bake in a preheated for about 6-8 minutes.

Arrange the rocket on the plates. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay the asparagus on top. Serve immediately.

TIP: We love this dish on its own as an antipasto, but it also makes a wonderful accompaniment to panfried chicken breast and crushed new potatoes. 

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