Make Ahead

Absurdly Addictive Asparagus

April  9, 2010
27 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

I guess there's a reason Vosges Haut-chocolat Bacon and Chocolate bars are growing in 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

Test Kitchen Notes

"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&M

"Absurdly Addictive Asparagus—Hyperbolic? Perhaps. Too good to be true? Maybe not. As easy to make as it is to scarf down? Most definitely. Take it from community member Dylan Mierzwinski, who had this to say about our site’s most popular asparagus recipe:

'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 ‘impress myself’ dish.'

Originally uploaded to Food52 by community member kaykay in 2010, this recipe has racked up an impressive amount of attention, with upwards of 12,000 favorites and 300 comments. In honor of this success, we’ve memorialized it in video form, just in time for spring—a.k.a. asparagus season. The flavors are few but purposeful. Sharp citrus and buttery pine nuts meld with pancetta’s welcome heft; the asparagus pop out of the pan crunchy and vegetal, dappled in an exciting new sauce.

In fact, this recipe has been popular on our site for so long that this isn’t even the first time we made this asparagus on camera. Eight years back, when Food52 was still a fledgling young enterprise, Amanda and Merrill recorded this very charming proto–recipe video for Absurdly Addictive Asparagus in their Brooklyn kitchen. Camera quality has definitely come a long way since then, but the simplicity and tastiness of the recipe are timeless." –Valerio Farris

—The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Absurdly Addictive Asparagus
  • 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.
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Recipe by: kaykay

I love cooking because you don't have to follow rules. I have dessert after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'd choose cioppino over fettucine alfredo any day. I love that my 6 and 9 year old daughters are epicurean adventurers and will plow through a huge bowl of mussels, sweat their way through Indian curry, or savor raw sushi. I can't pick my favorite meal until the end. Then, I will reflect back and choose one that truly stood out after after a lifetime of culinary indulgence.