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Asparagus with Parmigiano and Prosciutto

As some of you may know, I run a food blog – Pancakes and Biscotti – where, as the name suggests, I tend to focus on sweets and dessert. It is very much a place where butter, sugar, and chocolate reign supreme, and while there is nothing wrong with that – how could there be something wrong with that?! – the recipes I’ve posted for green, vegetable-y dishes are far and few between (and one of them would anyways be Basil Pesto which is served over pasta and thus doesn’t really count). That being said I find it’s nice to flex my savory recipe muscles every once in a while and take a step away from all the American-style cake, cookies, and pies, especially when writing for Bostoniano. With Spring officially here and in full swing, I thought I would shake things up with something lighter, greener, and more seasonal.

Ahh, asparagi! Here in Rome they are at their peak, bundles of them wrapped up and ready to be sold in all the markets, slender and graceful and emerald green, by far the most elegant vegetable around right now. I am on an asparagus kick at the moment, throwing them into pasta for dinner (especially good cooked with a little guanciale and tossed together with bucatini and Parmigiano,) added to a creamy risotto, or tossed into a frittata. My absolute favorite way to eat them at the moment however is like this, wrapped up in prosciutto with a little cheese and baked. Now — do not let the simplicity of this dish fool you, as it is spectacularly delicious. The asparagus is bright and fresh and perfectly cooked, a perfect counterpart to the salty richness of the prosciutto and the sharpness of Parmigiano, and the overall dish is pretty and elegant, a step up from your usual (slightly boring) steamed asparagus. It is super versatile, great as an appetizer for a dinner party, as a simple dinner alongside a poached egg and toasted bread, or as a fancy side dish (perhaps for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day). Since writing this post, I’ve already made this dish more times than I can count (my sister and I will soon turn into asparagus and prosciutto bundles ourselves, if this continues,) and oh, did I mention it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, start to finish?

So, the verdict? Did I regret straying from my usual sugar dusted path? No, not one bit!

One final note: be sure to use good quality prosciutto and Parmigiano, and the best asparagus you can find. When dishes have so few ingredients they have to be top notch, as there are not many other ingredients for them to “hide” behind. Enjoy everyone!

ASPARAGUS WITH PARMIGIANO AND PROSCIUTTO

Ingredients:

18 asparagus spears
6 slices of prosciutto
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fill a large pot with water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the asparagus and put them immediately into a large bowl of ice water (this will help preserve the bright green color). Leave the asparagus to chill in the water for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove them and pat them dry.

On a clean work surface, lay out the slices of prosciutto and sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese. Gather three of the asparagus spears together, and wrap them up in the prosciutto and Parmigiano. Repeat with all asparagus spears. Place the asparagus and prosciutto bundles on a lightly greased baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little extra Parmigiano. Bake the asparagus for 10-12 minutes, or until the prosciutto is crispy and the cheese is melted. Serves 6.

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About Francesca Bruzzese

Francesca Bruzzese is an avid cook and baker who has been living in Rome, Italy since 2011. A Rhode Island native with Italian roots, you can usually find her in the kitchen making dolci to bring to her colleagues at work, developing new recipes to add to her repertoire, or planning her next dinner party. In addition to contributing recipes and articles to Eating Italy Food Tours, she also has a food blog, Pancakes and Biscotti (www.pancakesandbiscotti.com).