Absurdly Addictive Asparagus

By • April 9, 2010 • 253 Comments


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Author Notes: I guess there's a reason Vosges Haut-chocolat Bacon and Chocolate bars are growing in popularity...it just seems that when you add bacon to almost anything, the salty smokiness heightens the other ingredients. Bacon may rule, but its Italian cousin, Pancetta, is also a contender for the crown. Take a garden fresh ingredient like asparagus and pair it with pancetta and you instantly get Snap, Crackle, Crisp all in one bite. There's something about the bite-size pieces of tender crisp asparagus, buttery leeks, crackly pancetta, and delicately crunchy pinenuts that make it somehow hard for me to stop eating this easy to prepare dish. I tried adding Parmigiano Reggiano at the end, but it overpowered the citrus. After testing the delectable sugar cookie finalist recipes with MonkeyMom tonight, I have to wonder if the number 52 will be even more symbolic when it represents the number of pounds we've gained by the end of the year. Apparently, Asparagus isn't the only thing I'm addicted to— Food52 is rapidly becoming a habit, too. (Sorry for the lack of a photo— the camera is out of commission this week...)kaykay

Food52 Review: The title pretty much says it all. With her recipe, kaykay takes an already promising set of ingredients and artfully combines them in such a way that the resulting dish exceeds the sum of its parts. 2-inch lengths of asparagus, crisp-tender to the bite, take center stage in a savory tangle of leeks, pancetta, garlic, orange zest, parsley and pine nuts. The rendered fat from the pancetta, along with a knob of butter, is just enough to keep the vegetables from being dry without smothering the fresh flavors. The recipe is supposed to serve 4, but we could easily imagine polishing off an entire pan by ourselves. - A&MA&M

Serves 4

  • 4 ounces pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
  • 1 1/4 cup leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1-2 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large non-stick pan, sauté pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan. Add asparagus pieces and leek and sauté until asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Comments (253) Questions (7)

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17 days ago mklug

Made this again night before last and it was better than even the first time I made it (both times used prosciutto because I am insane about prosciutto and because it was available), also I had the world's most juicy orange, so I skipped the zest and just splashed in the juice. It was crazy good! Because I cannot 'eyeball' weight, I ended up with 2x as must asparagus as needed, so tonight I'm making basically the same thing again, but maybe tossing in some grape tomatoes or sundried and putting it over pasta. Thank you again for this divine recipe!

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20 days ago Cindy Rucker

Loved this recipe! I used green and white asparagus since my husband is German and has a deep love for the white stuff. Delish!

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about 1 month ago Chef Tempio

This also works with shaved brussel sprouts instead of the asparagus.

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about 1 month ago Lygia

yummy! I made this for a group of 10 alongside parmesan risotto and grilled pork tenderloin. To save some time, I sauteed the pancetta and leeks ahead of time. I also broiled the asparagus just for a few minutes instead of sauteeing them because I wanted them to remain whole. About 30min before service, I reheated the pancetta and leeks, added the garlic, zest and parsley. Also deglazed with a splash of redwine vinegar. I added the pancetta mixture to the broiled asparagus and tossed them around on the sheet pan. Then I broiled them for a minute or more and left them in the warm oven until service time. SOOOO good! -Also did not add butter, pancetta let off enough fat.

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about 1 month ago Kelli Panepinto

Really good recipe - I would just skip the butter. The grease from the pancetta was plenty to coat and cook the asparagus and leeks.

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about 1 month ago megan

This was a big hit. I deglazed the pan at the very end with a splash of aged white wine vinegar and it was insanely good.

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about 1 month ago Jules

This is the first recipe where you actually get a measured amount for leeks. Usually you would read; white of a leek and if they get specific a medium leek.
Thank you

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about 1 month ago Susan McKeehan

It was insanely good! Used 3 oz pancetta, sauteed the leeks a bit before adding the asparagus.

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2 months ago imelda

Sounds great, cured parma ham would be less greasy and veeeeery tasty too.

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2 months ago Emelyn

This recipe totally lived up to my expectations. Next time I will probably skip the orange zest. It seemed to take over a bit. But overall, delicious! And completely amazing as next day leftovers, reheated in a pan, topped with fried eggs and accompanied by a slice of toasted peasant bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with cracked pepper.

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4 months ago davesmall

This was disappointing for a top rated recipe. Not a lot of flavor and a bit greasy. I would not make this again. Reminds me a bit of the Chinese recipe asparagus with oyster sauce. What's missing from this recipe is that oyster sauce which adds the missing flavor.

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5 months ago Sue

works well with green beans, too. Blanched them ahead of time as they need more cooking time than asparagus.

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5 months ago Janice

Thanks. I'll try that.

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5 months ago Sue Scott

Maybe smoked red peppers would add color and flavor rather than meat.

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5 months ago Janice

I'm sure this is good without meat but does anyone know of a good vegatarian meat replacement?

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5 months ago Janice

Any ideas of what to replace the meat with? I have several vegetarians coming over for dinner.

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5 months ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

You can make it without meat-- it's still really good.

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5 months ago Sue Scott

Having several vegetarians for Thanksgiving but I think it will be ok without the meat. Pinch of red pepper is a good thought. Let you know.

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6 months ago caley ashman

Just made this it's very tasty And quick two thumbs up

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7 months ago spc

I grilled the asparagus then cut it into bite size pieces and added it to the pan of pancetta, leeks and garlic. I added lemon zest (instead of orange) a pinch of red pepper flakes and the remaining ingredients. FANTASTIC!

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7 months ago Morti2

not a pancetta nut...the bacon sounds great...