Now that April is well underway, bunches of tall asparagus have begun to appear at the market. Crisp and vibrant green, asparagus stands up to a variety of cooking methods, giving you choices of whether to grill or roast – use the stovetop or oven – and so many other decisions. It’s hard to go wrong, since asparagus can even be eaten raw, but it becomes sweeter and richer when roasted with sun-dried tomatoes.
Beyond cooking methods, asparagus stands up equally well to a variety of ingredients from garlic to cured meats such as prosciutto and Serrano ham. With an intense concentration of tomato flavor, chopped pieces of the sun-dried variety become even sweeter as they caramelize in the oven. They are a perfect match for the flavor of roasted asparagus.
1 pound thin asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the asparagus and break off the tough ends. When you wiggle the end of each spear, you will feel a natural breaking point where the asparagus snaps easily. Dry the asparagus completely and toss it with the olive oil and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. While you should drain the tomatoes before chopping, they will retain some of the oil in which they were packed, and this helps to ensure that the spears are fully coated. Spread out the asparagus on a baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with salt and cracked black pepper.
When cooking asparagus in the oven, you will notice a point at which you begin to smell the spears roasting. If you prefer your asparagus on the crisp side, check to see if it is just tender enough and consider removing it at this point, which is usually around 7 minutes. For caramelized spears, continue to cook for longer and check frequently until your desired level of doneness. Remove asparagus from the tray, being sure to scrape up any tomatoes that have stuck to it and scatter them on top.
Serve warm with shredded Parmesan cheese.