Asparagus does its best with a little effort: It retains its light green hue, delicate flavor and crispy tender crunch when cooked quickly. Raw or roasted, blanched or sautéed, it appears in a variety of dishes involving minimal labor, letting the stems shine. When it comes to spring asparagus – and perhaps cooking in general at this stage of the pandemic – less is more.
This frittata from David Tanis is less picky than most, and especially fresh, leaning on vegetables for substance. On top, a quick blend of olive oil and herbs forms an instant pesto, and a blob of burrata takes this weekly dish from practical to imaginative.
Eric Kim cleverly and subtly raises this creamy asparagus paste with the addition of umami in two forms: Dasima (also known as kombu) tastes like the noodles and broth, while toasted seaweed gives an extra touch of brininess. Livened with rice vinegar and enriched with sesame oil, this dish is full of flair – and just as sophisticated as evening meals.
Recipe: Creamy asparagus paste
Melissa Clark calls her pie recipe “simple, yet amazing, effortlessly chic and company-ready.” She opts for convenience here, using puff pastry bought in the store, added to a sour goat cheese mixture and then showcasing fresh asparagus on top. “If you can manage to trim all the asparagus to the same length, this pie will be particularly neat and orderly,” she writes, though patterns would be just as welcome.
Recipe: Asparagus, goat cheese and tarragon pie
As tasty as it is easy, this recipe from Ali Slagle is light, fresh and impossibly fast. Gather your ingredients – you’ll need a bunch of asparagus, some boneless chicken thighs and a lime, plus a modest list of pantry staples – and sauté them in minutes. Crispy and quickly cooked, the asparagus remains satisfactorily snapsy in this sweet batter.
This brunch-friendly dish, popular at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar and adapted by Mark Bittman, is reminiscent of hollandaise sauce in richness, but draws its salty, fermented taste from miso. The fresh asparagus needs a little attention. Sautéed in butter and sprinkled with salt, it tastes of spring.
Recipe: Asparagus with miso butter
In this plate recipe, Susan Spungen complements roasted asparagus with leeks and peas, but explains that “you could experiment with your vegetable choices: Cut delicate vegetables into larger pieces and firmer vegetables into smaller pieces so they cook at the same speed.” Squatter cabbage, carrots or fennel will all be welcome.
Recipe: Sheet Gnocchi with asparagus, leeks and peas
Ali Slagle cuts asparagus pasta down to the essentials with this popular five-star recipe: Lemon, olive oil, garlic, herbs, panko breadcrumbs and parmesan are all that orzo and asparagus need to shine. Depending on the weather or your mood, you can enjoy this rather hot as it is, or at room temperature for an approach that feels more like pasta salad.
Recipe: Lemony Orzo with asparagus and garlic breadcrumbs
This recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi recognizes that good asparagus does not require much. After all, as he puts it, “cooking asparagus is one of the easiest kitchen tasks there is.” He suggests you toast it with a little olive oil, just until it is soft and brown, and focuses on toppings: almonds roasted in butter, fried capers and fresh dill.
Recipe: Roasted asparagus with buttered almonds, capers and dill
Covered with copious amounts of asparagus, arugula and fresh parsley, this recipe from Susan Spungen outweighs a rich ricotta-and-mozzarella base with a garden with green garnishes. The results are as springy as they are amazing.
Recipe: Sheet-pan pizza with asparagus and arugula
Melissa Clark’s five-star recipe is a favorite for good reason: “This simple pasta primavera uses a combination of the earliest vegetables available in the spring – asparagus, peas and spring onions – making it a true celebration of the season,” she writes. Saute the vegetables until crisp, then flip them with the pasta, sour cream, parmesan and herbs, and the result is flawless.
Recipe: Pasta Primavera with asparagus and peas
This easy pasta recipe is suitable for climates where it already feels like summer. It requires a quick sauté of sliced asparagus, corn kernels and scallions, while turmeric provides earthy notes and sunny hues. Ricotta adds richness, tempered with acidity. For more springy notes, replace the corn with fennel in thin slices, or skip it all over and put the fresh herbs you have on hand.
This salad from David Tanis is rich, structured and completely vegan, and it carefully stacks flavors: Blanched green beans and schnapps peas, boiled farro, sour lemon vinaigrette, raw asparagus, rich avocado and fresh basil are combined into a salad that satisfies any appetite. It’s a dish you can just crave all year round.
Recipe: Farro salad
This hearty vegetable salad from Pati Jinich introduces asparagus to the heat of the grill and is ideal for any cooking in hot weather. She coals the vegetables along with spring onions and corn, and then covers the mixture in salsa preparada, “an easy-to-eat sauce where umami, citrus and heat meet.” The recipe steers past delicate spring flavors and includes a bold, powerful combination of salt, chili and lime for a salad that can stand alone or tolerate any number of grilled meats.
Recipe: Grilled corn, asparagus and spring onion salad
This five-star quiche from Martha Rose Shulman involves enticing as much flavor as possible from fresh asparagus by roasting it. It is a step that intensifies the taste of the vegetable so that it tolerates the rich Gruyère and Parmesan here.
Recipe: Roasted asparagus and scallion quiche
Carbonara gets accessories for spring in this untraditional pasta number. Asparagus, peas and basil enhance a traditionally rich emulsion of pasta, parmesan and pork; an optional sprinkle of lemon peel or a squeeze of lemon juice lifts it even higher.
Recipe: Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara
This salad from Melissa Clark involves topping very green steamed asparagus with a quick dressing of lemon, shallots, herbs, nuts and Manchego – but its ingredients can also be customized endlessly. Any allium, hard cheese, vinegar will work wonderfully. This is the case with spring asparagus: it is not picky and requires a little more than a little olive oil, salt and pepper to delight.
Recipe: Lemony asparagus salad with shaved cheese and nuts