Absurdly Addictive Asparagus

April 9, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

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&MThe Editors

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 cups 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 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped (more to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In This Recipe


  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.

More Great Recipes:
Asparagus|Leek|Parsley|Pine Nut|Vegetable|Make Ahead|Serves a Crowd|Spring|Paleo|Gluten-Free|Side

Reviews (299) Questions (7)

299 Reviews

Juds July 28, 2018
Made it last night for the family and it was amazing. Will make it again and again!
Juds July 28, 2018
Drained the pancetta of it's fat before adding the asparagus
Ryan O. July 21, 2018
I could imagine using fresh green beans for this recipe as well. Very good.
Ron O. June 14, 2018
Tried this recipe and loved it. I added a sprinkling of asiago cheese just before serving. Just the finishing touch to an excellent dish!
Julie April 1, 2018
Like the others, we found this recipe too heavy. Next time I'm planning to drain the pancetta fat and omit the butter before moving on to the asparagus/leek sautee step; the fat all around is too much on the fresh asparagus. Also, it needed a hit of acid (I did a splash of red wine vinegar at the end) to really cut the fat. It has major potential, it just needs tweaking.
cookinalong March 31, 2018
We love asparagus, so I jumped on this right away. But after doggedly trying this several times as written, this was still not winner for us. I've now dropped the orange zest and increased the amt. of lemon, and that was the breakthrough for us. We just found the orange zest a little off-putting. But the orange free version is now a springtime favorite!
ontilt April 3, 2018
Ironically, I must have mis-read the recipe and have never cooked this with orange, and instead, always with lemon. It's been a fave for quite some time due to our own mis-read.
Don December 17, 2017
Made this last night and found it to be just good and not great. I used a really good pancetta which rendered so much fat that maybe there was too much oil. Didn't hate it, but didn't love it. <br />
bitememore May 16, 2017
This sounds like such a good recipe. I personally love my asparagus with parmesan : http://www.bitememore.com/feedme/52/parmesan-crusted-asparagus-recipe
Danielle February 22, 2017
I made this a ton using chard instead of asparagus. So good.
NancyJ February 19, 2017
Made this last night and, mindful of the comments, made sure to measure the orange zest - and used a smallish lemon. FANTASTIC. DH and I polished off 3/4 of a pound of asparagus and he is not a big vegetable fan. I poured off most of the bacon drippings to use in roasted potatoes so it was a bit lighter. Tip - use fresh asparagus, the day it comes home from the store - that may have been the kicker.
Curlytexan July 31, 2016
Definitely not a family favorite with my crew. The orange zest overpowered the dish.
Curlytexan July 15, 2016
Not bad, but not sure I would make it again. I didn't care for the orange zest in the dish. Maybe I had a particularly flavorful orange, but it really stood out. I would consider making it again, but without the orange and I would top it with shaved Parmesan.
Betsy March 26, 2016
I found this quite heavy and indifferent.
Alicia A. February 16, 2016
This is by far one of my favorite veggie recipes. I LOVE it! I've even made it using brussel sprouts and it tastes awesome.
Susan December 13, 2015
I made this last night and it was amazing. I honestly could not taste the pine nuts. Not sure if I will add them next time.
Bob December 7, 2015
I'm happy for this new recipe.
John December 7, 2015
Sounds fantastic this asparagus.
Chef D. November 12, 2015
Dylan M. September 29, 2015
This was so wonderful (all ninety times I've made it). I don't change a thing, this is my go-to "impress others" dish. And let's be real..my "impress myself" dish.
Cheri M. September 8, 2015
This looks special tapping the screen to see each picture, the dish was revealed with a dash of this a spritz of perfume,<br /> it was like going out to dinner all dressed up!<br /><br />
Dana June 24, 2015
LOVE this dish. We made it once with pancetta and once with prosciutto and my husband and I slightly prefer the prosciutto. We also made it with green beans instead of asparagus and the dish was equally delicious. My picky 10 year old said he thought it was "pretty good," which means this dish is a winner all the way around.