Fennel pollen and asparagus have a natural affinity, and I love to roast asparagus, so this recipe is a natural to me. I hope to convince you to try the really fat stalks of asparagus with this recipe. They're definitely best for roasting, but I think they're best for everything. They're just as tender, and often more flavorful, than the little pencil-thin stalks that seem to be so in vogue. Ricotta salata is another natural addition for it's tangy creaminess. This recipe is sophisticated on the palate but is the essence of simplicity to prepare. —Abra Bennett
Preheat oven to 450°. Rinse the asparagus stalks, bend each one slightly until it snaps, and reserve the top portion of each stalk. I save the tough ends (along with leek tops and fennel fronds) to add when making stock.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the asparagus tops out on the sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and massage the asparagus lightly with your fingers to be sure the stalks are evenly coated with oil. Sprinkle the salt and grind the pepper over the asparagus.
Roast in the hot oven until the asparagus is just tender. I like to roast it for 11 minutes, but the exact timing will depend on the thickness of your stalks.
Remove asparagus from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the fennel pollen. Serve on individual plates surrounded by a little flurry of ricotta salata crumbles.