A favorite pastime when I lived in Italy was foraging for all manner of edibles. Besides mushrooms, the hunts we went on for wild greens bring blissful memories of spring weekend outings that yielded dandelions, nettles, watercress and something I recall as wild asparagus. Most often the bounty would be taken back to my friends Paulo and Ana's house to make magic with these fresh ingredients. I chopped a lot of parsley during these cooking sessions! Today, I don't recall the exact flavor of the wild asparagus, but here are a few of my favorite Italian ingredients for making magic with cultivated spears. —Amber Olson
asparagus spears with medium size stalks, ends snapped off, and the bottom third of each peeled
1 TB. + 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
slices of prosciutto to equal at least an ounce, diced
gorgonzola dolce or cambozola, divided into 1 ounce portions
Heat oven to 475 degrees. Put asparagus in a shallow roasting pan, brush all over with 1 TB. oil and season with some grinds of pepper. While oven is preheating, put the diced prosciutto and 1 tsp. oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Brown the bits slowly, stopping before they are completely crispy. Reserve.
Roast the asparagus just until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Turn the spears over so the bottom side is now on top. Turn off the oven, leave the pan inside for another 5 minutes.
Take out the pan and arrange four spears in a close fan shape, with the stem ends together at the bottom of the plate (or use a single platter.) With your fingers, break apart the cheese portions and sprinkle the dabs over the middle part of the spears. Evenly divide the prosciutto bits over the cheese. Place the plates in the warm oven to melt the cheese.
Remove the plates or platter and drizzle with the aged vinegar.