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Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto
By Charlie Burke
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In New Hampshire, we are in the middle of the asparagus season, and our three beds are keeping us and
friends well supplied. We trade fat spears of just cut asparagus for our neighbors’ eggs and are
reminded how much better each are than the well traveled supermarket offerings.

Although tiny squash, carrots and beans are particularly tender and full of flavor, thin asparagus are
from either immature or poorly producing plants. The most tender and flavorful spears are, in fact, the
thickest which grow rapidly and have less chewy fiber. Before tiny vegetables were featured in
restaurants and food magazines, asparagus growers often consigned the thin stalks to the compost; now,
some specially package these small spears to sell at a premium price! So, when visiting your local farm
stand or
farmers’ market, choose large asparagus with tight buds and then taste the difference in fresh,
local produce.

My favorite way to prepare new asparagus is to simply sauté them in a very hot pan with a sprinkle of
lemon juice and either olive oil or butter. The lemon juice accents the flavor and caramelizes as the
asparagus lightly browns.

Cook them only until they as crisp tender; even the best asparagus loses it flavor when soft and over
cooked. With friends coming to dinner, I decided to add prosciutto to the mix, while still using olive oil
and lemon juice. Because I was going to sauté the fish course, which was
salmon picatta, the asparagus
would be pan roasted in a 500 degree oven. The spears were peeled, so almost the entire length was
tender, with only the fibrous inch or so being discarded. Four or five spears were wrapped in a single
thin slice of p
rosciutto, sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil and placed in a shallow sauté pan with a
little dry white wine to add moisture.

The salty Italian ham is a perfect accent to the asparagus, and cooked asparagus wrapped in prosciutto
are served warm or at room temperature is a popular spring antipasto in Italy.

Four servings:

4-5 asparagus spears per person
1 thin slice prosciutto per serving
Fresh lemon juice, approximately ¼ cup
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or butter
½ cup dry white wine
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Peel and trim fibrous root end from asparagus and wrap 4-5 spears in a
single slice of prosciutto. Place bundles, seam side down in shallow sauté or frying pan which has been
oiled or spread with butter. Sprinkle bundles with the lemon juice and dot with butter or sprinkle with
olive oil.

Place pan over medium to high heat and bring wine to a boil. Place the pan into the preheated oven, and
roast until asparagus is just tender -
- a knife tip or fork meets moderate resistance, but stalks are not
hard. Remove the pan from the oven and season lightly with salt (the ham adds salt to the sauce) and a
generous grind of black pepper. The asparagus can be served hot, war or at room temperature. Divide
pan juices over each portion. A few drops of lemon juice and a drizzle of fine olive oil are optional.

This simple preparation yields a formal presentation while complementing, rather than obscuring, the
great spring taste of fresh local asparagus. Easily done ahead, it is appropriate as an appetizer (using
single spears), a first course or salad substitute, and as a main course vegetable.

The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Roasted Asparagus with Prosciutto
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...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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