Roasted Asparagus and Creamy Cheese Sauce
When asparagus is in season, I want to eat it every day. Many cooks steam the spears, but roasting gives them a satisfying earthy flavor. Or, you can parboil the asparagus and then put them on a grill for a minute or two to give them a hint of smokiness. The fonduta, a specialty of northern Italy, can also be served with bread sticks for dipping. Be sure to seek out the delicately nutty, straw-colored Fontina made in the Italian Alps. If you are using the optional truffle (in any form), white is preferred, though black can be used.
WINE: Asparagus is often a tough match with wine, but fortunately the Italians have some wines that will work here. Tocai Friulano is one. You can also try a white blend from Friuli, Look for wines from the Collio, Colli Orientali, Grave, or Isonzo appellation and from such producers as Movia, Venica & Venica, Schioppetto, and Scarbolo.
Truffle paste: Italian specialty stores carry different kinds of truffle paste. Some products are made from black truffles, some from white, and some mix truffles with porcini mushrooms. Some are a smooth purée and others are a bit chunky. The names vary as well: salsa al tartufo, crema di funghi as tartufo, truffle spread, and even truffle paté. All of them will work in the recipes from this book.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party
Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, appetizer, tapas/small plates
Dietary Considerationantipasto/mezze, appetizer, tapas/small plates
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturecheesy, creamy, rich, umami
Type of Dishvegetable
- 7 ounces Fontina cheese from Valle d’Aosta, cut into small dice
- Whole milk to cover
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- Truffle oil, truffle paste (see note below), or shaved fresh truffle (optional)
- 2 pounds asparagus
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
To make the fonduta, in a bowl, combine the cheese and milk, cover, and let rest in the refrigerator for 4 hours. The cheese will absorb some of the milk.
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears, and then trim the ends so they are even. If the spears are very thick, peel the bottom half with a vegetable peeler, Pour the olive oil into a shallow bowl large enough to accommodate the length of the spears, and roll the spears in the oil. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, allowing a little space between them, Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place the asparagus in the oven and roast until tender, 7 to 10 minutes; the timing will depend on the thickness of the spears.
Meanwhile, to finish the fonduta, melt the butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add the cheese and milk and stir in the egg yolks. Cook gently, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and creamy, about 10 minutes, Season with salt and pepper and stir in the truffle oil, if you like it.
Remove the asparagus from the oven and arrange on individual plates. Spoon the fonduta over the tips and serve immediately.
Variations: Instead of roasting the asparagus spears, you can sauté them in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a nonstick pan over low heat, turning them often, until they are lightly browned and tender, about 8 minutes. You can also forgo the fonduta. Top the asparagus with grated Parmesan cheese in its place.
2006 Joyce Goldstein