Oven roasted asparagus is a quick and simple side dish. It's also extremely healthy if prepared well. Discover the best way to roast fresh asparagus to keep its flavour and nutrients, with my top ideas what to serve with it.
What is the Healthiest Way to Cook Asparagus?
Perhaps the most popular way of cooking asparagus to date has been to boil it in plenty of salted water (à l'anglaise) then halt the cooking by plunging into ice-cold water. This has been chefs' go-to method since at least Auguste Escoffier.
However, it is important not to overcook asparagus as this can destroy some of its nutrients. More lately I have learned the science behind the cooking methods of green vegetables, thanks to food scientist, Raphaël Haumont.
As green vegetables already contain mainly water, cooking in much water isn't the healthiest cooking method.
Instead he demonstrates (in French on 'Allo Docteur') that sautéing asparagus briefly in a pan without any water and cooking with the lid on in its own steam is far better than boiling. Likewise, roasting briefly for a few minutes is also an excellent method.
So, is it better to sauté or roast asparagus? Both sautéing and roasting are equally good ways to cook it. Cooking time should be short, in order to keep both its flavour and healthy source of fibre, vitamins (A, B9, C and K).
Roasting asparagus is a healthy way to cook this vegetable, as it requires minimal added fat and preserves its nutrients - as long as it's not overcooked and not cooked in too much olive oil (no more than 2 tablespoons). If cooked too long, asparagus loses its flavour, its colour, firmness and lowers its nutritional benefits.
For much more on how to prepare this vegetable plus its fascinating history, see the asparagus market page.
My Top Tip for the Healthiest Roasted Asparagus
First ensure that your asparagus is extra fresh.
Please don't buy the smelly, wet, extra dry or wilted ones that are selling off for an extra cheap deal. Even I have been tempted before but alas, this is false economy! The result will be very underwhelming. I may be stating the obvious but it's important.- Jill
- The freshest asparagus should have firm heads - not wet, not dry, not wilted.
- The bottoms of the spears should not be too woody and brown either.
- Thicker or thinner spears doesn't mean either is fresher or less woody. Just go for the freshest!
- Eat preferably on the day of purchase, otherwise keep for up to 2 days at the bottom of the fridge.
How to Roast Asparagus - Easy Steps
This recipe works well with either green or white asparagus.
- Wash then cut off the dry bottoms (either a little to 2cm from the bottom, depending on their freshness);
- Although optional, trim off the triangular peduncles and lightly scrape off the outer skin with a sharp knife towards the bottom of the spears. This makes them easier to digest (top tip from Chef Excoffier's kitchen in Paris's 7th arrondissement) and how they're served in French restaurants;
- Lay the spears in a single layer in a roasting tin;
- Toss in a tablespoon (no more than 2 for a bunch) of olive oil, a little salt and 2-3 grinds of the pepper mill then bake for 8-12 minutes.
- Optional: I like to add some nuts, ever since being served hazelnuts in a chic Parisian restaurant. The combination is wonderful.
For more details on how to prepare the spears, see the asparagus page.
Oven Roasted Asparagus 400°F
The beauty of roasting asparagus at a pre-heated high temperature (180°C fan/200°C/400°F/Gas 6) is that it requires little time in the oven.
Just note that cooking times will slightly vary depending on the thickness of your spears.
- thin spears (below left) will require only 8 minutes baking time;
- thicker spears (below right) need 12 minutes. If spears are white and thick, then I'd suggest as much as 15 minutes.
How Do you Know When Asparagus is Done Roasting?
It's simple. You know it's done if a sharp knife can cut easily through the middle of a spear.
What Can I Serve With it?
Roasted asparagus is great for entertaining as it's so easy and quick to prepare. It's also versatile and goes with so many meats, poultry, fish, seafood plus many vegetarian dishes.
As it's a Spring vegetable, the rule of thumb is that it goes well with seasonal produce - such as new potatoes, peas, lamb, veal, sea bass and scallops. It's particularly good with parmesan, cream and eggs - and we also love it with toasted nuts.
Here are some accompanying recipe ideas:
- Smoked beurre blanc sauce with salmon
- Béarnaise sauce
- Parmesan sauce (from my recipe for asparagus clafoutis)
- Corsican mint omelette
- Corsican cheese lasagna
- Throw in some nuts: almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts for added texture.
- 1 bundle / 500g /1lb fresh asparagus spears green or white
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- ¼ teaspoon salt fleur de sel, Maldon or Celtic sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon hazelnuts (or walnuts/flaked almonds)
- Preheat oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/Gas 6.Wash the spears then cut off the dry bottoms (either a little to 2cm from the bottom, depending on their freshness).
- Although optional, trim off the triangular peduncles and lightly scrape off the outer skin with a sharp knife towards the bottom of the spears. (This makes them easier to digest - and how they're served in French restaurants.
- Lay the spears in a single layer in a roasting tin. Toss them in the olive oil, a little salt and 2-3 grinds of the pepper mill. Sprinkle over nuts, if using.
- Roast for 8-12 minutes, depending on their thickness.
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