How to Roast Asparagus

Come spring, this dish makes an appearance on our table a couple of times a week.  Roasting is as easy a cooking method as there is, the high heat deepening the flavor of any vegetable, and all those nutrients stay right in the veggies where they belong.

Funnily enough, when Charlie was little, he didn’t like the tips, so he chomped his way all the way up the stalk and leaves the perfect little pointed tops for one of us to pick off of his plate.  And luckily Jack really liked the tips.  I guess if I were smarter I would have cut the tips off some of the asparagus before cooking, and save them to blanch and garnish a risotto.  But that is the kind of thought that only occurs to moms as we look at these abandoned gnawed tips lying on a plate.

Thick Asparagus vs. Thin Asparagus

Thick or thin?  Your choice.  I think for a while there was something very sexy and desirable and chic about the very skinny asparagus, but really it’s a matter of preference.  The thin ones just need the bottom inch or so cut off, cook faster and work nicely in sautéed or stir fried dishes.  The fatter ones take longer to cook, but the thickness provides a much more satisfying bite.  

How to Roast Asparagus

Peeling Asparagus

I do really recommend peeling the lower parts of the stalks on the thicker ones, though, which results in a stalk that is very tender from stem to stern.  You might find this kitchen task odious, and if so, just skip it.   I happen to find it slightly zen – but believe me there are plenty of kitchen chores I would much prefer to delegate (chopping onions screams to mind).

After trimming the bottom inch or so off the asparagus, you simply take a vegetable peeler and peel the green outer layer off from the bottom 3-ish inches of the stalk.  If you don’t feel like doing this, you can just snap off 3 inches from the bottoms instead of 1, but in the spirit of reducing food waste I don’t recommend it.  Grab that peeler. 

Roasting asparagus is probably my favorite ways to cook asparagus.  The natural sugars in the vegetables are concentrated by the high heat and you get a lovely golden exterior.

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Roasting Asparagus

Roasting asparagus is probably my favorite ways to cook asparagus, other than grilling, but main advantage is that you can’t lose in in between the grates (yes, I know they make grill pans for this purpose – I just am sometimes too lazy to find mine).  The natural sugars in the vegetables are concentrated by the high heat (which is why roasting is one of the greatest cooking methods period), and you get a lovely browned exterior.

Just drizzle the asparagus with some oil on a baking sheet.  If you want you can line the pan with parchment paper or foil, which helps make clean up very easy.  I am quite obsessed with my big package of precut baking sheet-sized pieces of parchment paper.  I think it’s my favorite shortcut prep tool in the kitchen. 

How to Roast Asparagus

How to Roast Asparagus:

Toss the asparagus with the oil, making sure it’s nicely and evenly coated. 

How to Roast Asparagus

Sprinkle over some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper if desired. 

How to Roast Asparagus

Roast at 425°F or 450°F (if your oven is set to one or the other for another reason, this is pretty flexible – even 400°F will be ok, just adjust the cooking time accordingly by a few minutes). 

How Long to Roast Asparagus

The cooking time for thin stalks at 425°F is about 8 to 10 minutes for thin stalks, 10 to 14 minutes for thick stalks.  The cooking time depends on the thickness of the stalks, and it really depends on how you like your asparagus cooked.  Keep in mind that the asparagus will continue to “cook” after they leave the oven, especially if you leave them on the hot tray.  Take them out a just before they are as cooked as you would ultimately like them to be.

Crisp-tender?  Tender-crisp?  Super soft?  For quite a while now it’s been the fashion to eat asparagus and many other vegetables quite al dente; well cooked vegetables have been sneered at as old-fashioned and unchic.  This is stupid; you should cook your vegetables to how done you like to eat them.  If you (and as importantly, your kids) are fans of slightly mushy veggies, then you should cook them until they are slightly mushy.  You don’t need undercooked vegetables to prove you’re cool. 

How to Roast Asparagus

You can serve them very plain, and they will be delicious.  Or, squeeze the lemon over all or some of the asparagus and sprinkle on the capers.  Another thing to do if you’re feeling like you want to make them special, maybe for a dinner part or whatnot, is to drizzle them with a sauce.  A plate of room temperature asparagus toss with a bit of homemade vinaigrette is a pretty elegant spring side, I can tell you that. 

Or steal one of these sauces from another recipe, and top your asparagus with a bit, served either at room temperature or warm:  Sesame Drizzle,  Spicy Drizzle,  Chimichurri Sauce,  Sriracha Sauce or  Simplest Fresh Herb Sauce.

Storing Asparagus:

The best way to store asparagus is to trim off the bottom, then stand them in a tall wide glass or vase or pitcher in a few inches of cold water, and store them in the fridge.  They should last for 2 or three days that way.  You can also leave them in a bag in a produce drawer, but they do tend to get a little banged up and age a bit faster.

Serve Roasted Asparagus with:

Garlicky Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

Other Roasted Asparagus Recipes:

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How to Roast Asparagus

Roasting asparagus is probably my favorite ways to cook asparagus.  The natural sugars in the vegetables are concentrated by the high heat and you get a lovely golden exterior.
Yield: 6 People
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Juice of ½ a lemon optional
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon minced capers optional

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Place the asparagus in a baking pan. Don’t worry about finding a pan large enough to hold the asparagus in one layer – the stalks can overlap a bit. Drizzle the olive oil over them and toss gently to coat the asparagus evenly. Sprinkle on the salt, and toss again.
  • Roast the asparagus for 8 to 10 minutes for thin stalks, 10 to 14 for thick ones. If they overlap, just give them a little shuffle with a spatula halfway through the cooking time so they all have a chance to brown a bit. Remember that they will continue to cook a bit after you remove them from the oven, so take them out while they’re still a little firmer than you would like.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 64kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 390mg | Potassium: 229mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 857IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg

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