Asparagus performs at its best with little effort: It retains its bright-green hue, delicate flavor and crisp-tender crunch when cooked quickly. Raw or roasted, blanched or sautéed, it pops up in a number of dishes that involve minimal labor, allowing the stalks to 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 fussy than most, and particularly fresh, leaning on vegetables for substance. On top, a quick blend of olive oil and herbs form an instant pesto, and a dollop of burrata takes this weeknight dish from practical to fanciful.
Eric Kim smartly and subtly elevates this creamy asparagus pasta with the addition of umami in two forms: Dasima (also known as kombu) flavors the noodles and broth, while roasted seaweed imparts an extra dash of brininess. Enlivened with rice vinegar and enriched with sesame oil, this dish is full of flair — and as sophisticated as weeknight meals come.
Recipe: Creamy Asparagus Pasta
Melissa Clark calls her tart recipe “simple yet stunning, effortlessly chic and company-ready.” She opts for convenience here, using store-bought puff pastry slathered with a tangy goat cheese mixture, then showcasing fresh asparagus on top. “If you can manage to trim all the asparagus to the same length, this tart will be especially neat and orderly looking,” she writes, though patterns would be equally welcome.
As flavorful as it is easy, this recipe from Ali Slagle is bright, 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. Crisp and quickly cooked, the asparagus stays satisfyingly snappy in this sweet stir-fry.
This brunch-friendly dish, popularized at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar and adapted by Mark Bittman, is reminiscent of hollandaise sauce in richness, but pulls its salty, fermented flavor from miso. The fresh asparagus needs little attention. Sautéed in butter and sprinkled with salt, it tastes like spring.
Recipe: Asparagus With Miso Butter
In this sheet-pan recipe, Susan Spungen complements roasted asparagus with leeks and peas, but explains that “you could experiment with your vegetable choices: Cut delicate vegetables in larger pieces and firmer vegetables in smaller pieces so they cook at similar rates.” Scallions, carrots or fennel would all be welcome.
Ali Slagle pares asparagus pasta down to the essentials with this popular five-star recipe: Lemon, olive oil, garlic, herbs, panko bread crumbs and Parmesan are all the orzo and asparagus need to shine. Depending on the weather or your mood, you can enjoy this dish warm as is, or at room temperature for an approach that feels more like pasta salad.
This recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi acknowledges that good asparagus doesn’t need much. After all, as he puts it, “cooking asparagus is one of the easiest kitchen tasks around.” He suggests roasting it with some olive oil, just until softened and browned, and focusing on the toppings: almonds toasted in butter, fried capers and fresh dill.
Covered with ample amounts of asparagus, arugula and fresh parsley, this recipe from Susan Spungen offsets a rich ricotta-and-mozzarella base with a garden of green garnishes. The results are as springy as they are stunning.
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 spring — asparagus, peas and spring onions — making it a true celebration of the season,” she writes. Simply sauté the greens until crisp-tender, then toss them with pasta, crème fraîche, Parmesan and herbs, and the results are flawless.
This easy pasta recipe is suited to climates where it already feels like summer. It requires a quick sauté of sliced asparagus, sweet corn kernels and scallions, while turmeric provides earthy notes and sunny hues. Ricotta adds richness, tempered with tanginess. For springier notes, swap the corn for thinly sliced fennel, or skip it entirely and pile on any fresh herbs you have handy.
Rich, textural and totally vegan, this salad from David Tanis carefully stacks flavor: Blanched green beans and snap peas, boiled farro, acidic lemon vinaigrette, raw asparagus, rich avocado and fresh basil combine into a salad that satiates any appetite. It’s a dish you just might crave 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 warm-weather cookout. She chars the vegetable along with spring onions and corn, then covers the mixture in salsa preparada, “an easy-to-eat sauce where umami, citrus and heat converge.” The recipe steers past delicate spring flavors, embracing a bold, punchy combination of salt, chile and lime for a salad that can stand alone or stand up to any number of grilled meats.
This five-star quiche from Martha Rose Shulman involves coaxing as much flavor as possible from fresh asparagus by roasting it. It’s a step that intensifies the vegetable’s flavor, so it stands up to the rich Gruyère and Parmesan here.
Carbonara gets accessorized for spring in this nontraditional pasta number. Asparagus, peas and basil enhance a traditionally rich emulsion of pasta, Parmesan and pork; an optional sprinkle of lemon zest or a squeeze of lemon juice lifts it even higher.
Recipe: Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara
This salad from Melissa Clark involves topping very verdant steamed asparagus with a quick dressing of lemon, shallots, herbs, nuts and Manchego — but its ingredients are also endlessly adaptable. Any allium, hard cheese, vinegar will work wonderfully. That’s the thing about spring asparagus: It’s not fussy, and needs little more than some olive oil, salt and pepper to delight.