Asparagus with Pancetta Asparagus with Shallots, Chiles, and Lemon

- Amanda

Sometimes when I learn something new in the kitchen I feel embarrassed that I hadn't figured it out sooner. Cooking asparagus was that way. Sure, I knew how to high-heat roast it, and I loved that technique. But when I wasn't roasting asparagus, I'd slide back to blanching the spears. Then, while working on a story a few years ago, Carlo Mirarchi, the chef at Roberta's, showed me the right way. As he noted, blanching does little but drain asparagus's flavor, and they're no longer so tough that they need blanching anyway. A much better method is to saute them in oil or butter (or some combination thereof). They cook through quickly and retain all their flavor.

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That's what I do now. And so should you (when you're not roasting them). To celebrate my asparagus enlightenment, I'd like to share with you two recipes that involve sauteing and not much other work. One calls for pancetta, the other for chiles and lemon -- all of my most reliable friends in the kitchen. Happy spring.

Asparagus with Pancetta

Serves 3 to 4 (add a poached egg and it serves 2 for dinner)

  • One 1/4-inch-thick slice pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1/3 cup coarse bread crumbs
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Maldon sea salt, for garnish

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Asparagus with Shallots, Chiles, and Lemon

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 dried red chile, crushed into tiny bits
  • 4 lemon wedges
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


Rhonda35 April 20, 2011
Amanda - I made the Asparagus with Shallots, Chiles and Lemon last night - delish! The one change I made was I grated the zest of the lemon over the plated asparagus before I cut the lemon into wedges. Added a nice brightness to the flavor.
Amanda H. April 20, 2011
Great idea -- and better way to use up all the lemon!
roundthekitchentable April 20, 2011
I am salivating at the thought of local asparagus. My new favorite preparation is wrapped in bits of proscuitto and then grilled (sliding 3-4 spears onto a pair of wooden skewers for support). It's a magically disappearing appetizer.
Amanda H. April 20, 2011
Still chilly here in NY -- I'll save that one for a few weeks from now.
LloJo April 20, 2011
Who knew?! I always blanch/boil them or roast them too. Just tried this new method for lunch and they were green and super crunchy/nice & tender. I served on top of lavash, with some crumbled feta and a drizzle of really good oil, and pepper. Really satisfying lunch!
Amanda H. April 20, 2011
Nice menu.
lapadia April 19, 2011
We usually have asparagus growing by's been a long cold season, however, I will have your recipes in mind once we can harvest! Thanks...
TiggyBee April 18, 2011
Oh gosh, I love asparagus even the after affects aren't enough to deter me.
Amanda H. April 19, 2011
mrslarkin April 18, 2011
Love both of these. I usually nuke/steam my asparagus (don't cringe.) Comes out crisp-tender. I love your handwriting Amanda!!
Amanda H. April 19, 2011
I won't tell anyone....
mariaraynal April 18, 2011
I just love recipes like these -- simple, with just a few carefully chosen ingredients, yet high impact. Confession: I almost always skip blanching in recipes and add the veggies a couple minutes earlier. I'm fairly sure it hasn't had any catastrophic effects.
Amanda H. April 19, 2011
I confess to the same -- have become very anti-blanching.
mariaraynal April 19, 2011
Yes, it seems to be an extra step and a waste of a perfectly clean pot most of the time.
EmilyC April 18, 2011
Thank you! This comes just in time for a trip back home to see my family. My mother has a huge bed of asparagus right now, and it even grows roadside near their farm. We're always looking for new ideas for how to simply prepare it.
Amanda H. April 19, 2011
Hope you enjoy it. You reminded me of going asparagus "hunting" with my mother and grandmother -- it would grow on the roadside near fields of corn near my grandmother's house in Maryland.