Asparagus season is just about over. I know this because Mark Bittman kindly reminded me in yesterday’s New York Times. Which means that I’d better hop to it and share this kick-ass recipe with you, before it’s too late.
Three ingredients. Three. Sometimes such complete simplicity is, well, boring. Other times, it’s genius. I would never be so boastful as to say today’s recipe bears the mark of genius, but friends, it’s mighty, mighty good.
While a bunch of asparagus roasts quickly in a super-hot oven, you’ll be browning butter and tossing in a handful of pine nuts. Both elements emerge, transformed, at the same time, and once they meet and marry on the platter, I’m pretty sure you’ll want to send me a lovely hand-written thank-you note. (If it’s super-hot, the way it was here last week, you can steam the asparagus instead of turning on the oven.)
The only thing that could make this better is if it were a main dish, not a side. Surprise! Roughly chop that asparagus and toss it, with the buttery, browned nuts, into a bowl of pasta. Four ingredients: heaven. Add a fifth, a shower of grated Parmesan cheese, and you’ll hear the angels singing.
Roasted Asparagus with Brown Butter & Pine Nuts
1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 450°.
- Grease or line a rimmed baking sheet, and top with the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and roast for 5 to 7 minutes, until cooked and beginning to brown, but still a bit crisp.
- While that’s going, heat the butter in a light-colored skillet over medium heat. Swirl it around a bit as it melts, just to keep it cooking evenly. It’ll foam, and when the foam subsides the browning begins. Continue to swirl the pan occasionally, but leave it alone otherwise—just watch it, since once the color starts to change it darkens quickly. When it’s pale brown, add the nuts and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another minute or two, until both butter and nuts are nicely browned.
- Transfer asparagus to a platter, and top with butter and pine nuts.
MAKE BABY FOOD: If you have no food allergies in your immediate family, you can puree a portion of the entire recipe. You can also let your baby gnaw on an asparagus spear, for practice with finger foods.
Pasta with Asparagus, Brown Butter & Pine Nuts
To the above recipe, add:
1 pound whole-grain pasta of your choice
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional but very worth it
- While waiting for the oven to preheat, put a large pot of salted water on to boil, covered. Begin to cook the pasta before you put the asparagus into the oven. (Depending on how long your pasta takes to cook, you may need to wait as much as 10 minutes before proceeding.)
- Follow the roasting instructions above, but chop the asparagus into 1” lengths beforehand. Brown the butter and nuts as above.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta-cooking water before draining, then toss pasta with asparagus, brown butter, and pine nuts. Add a splash of the reserved water if it seems dry.
- Serve topped with optional Parmesan.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Same as above—the pasta’s fine for pureeing or finger food.