Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Asparagus
Nothing really sings of spring like Asparagus. The little stalks, poking up so proudly, and tasting so very green are the essence of all that is springtime. Asparagus was a seasonal vegetable before eating seasonally was cool – I remember eating lots of asparagus during my childhood, but only in the springtime. (Do not speak to me of the horror that is frozen asparagus or – shudder – CANNED asparagus. Part of the point of asparagus is its texture – that perfect balance between crisp and yielding with just a tiny snap as your teeth close on the stalk.

Raw Asparagus

When it’s in season, I can’t resist buying a bunch of it every week. I include it in omelets, make it into soup, or saute it with some mild leeks. But my favorite asparagus preparations are the simplest ones that really let the vegetable shine. Steaming is traditional, but I was not gifted an Asparagus Steamer (affiliate link) when I got married (which appears to be the only time anyone acquires an asparagus steamer), so I prefer a simple and quick roast. Roasted asparagus is delicious on its own, but I like serving it with this super quick but delicious sauce. My mother always served asparagus with this sauce when I was growing up – it takes literally minutes and makes for an elegant presentation. It’s also beautiful, with the peachy pink standing out against the fresh green, and delicious – the sweetness of the tomatoes providing the perfect foil to the vegetal grassiness of the asparagus.  It doesn’t look like much when you add it to the saucepan, but keep stirring – the alchemy of heat transforms it into something so much more than the sum of its parts.

Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Tomato Sauce
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Cook time: 
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Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
For asparagus
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 T olive oil
  • pinch salt
For sauce
  • 2 small or 1 medium tomato
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions
To roast asparagus:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Snap the bottoms off of asparagus right where it naturally snaps. (I know it seems like there's a lot of waste, but every time I've tried to circumvent this step, even by peeling the asparagus - it ends up stringy. Trust me. You can add the trimmings to your compost or use them to flavor soup).
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil, arrange the asparagus spears, drizzle with olive oil (rolling the spears around to coat each one with the oil) and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Roast for 15 minutes, or until just tender and lightly browned.
For the sauce
  1. Chop the tomatoes.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the tomatoes, mayonnaise and plenty of fresh ground pepper.
  3. Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is a brilliant salmon pink and the tomatoes have softened.
  4. Serve warm over asparagus.
Notes
This sauce never had a name, but I'm calling it "Maria Rosa" - a somewhat Italianate version of English Mary Rose or Marie Rose sauce, which is made with ketchup and mayonnaise and related to Thousand Island dressing.

So go forth and enjoy your asparagus while it’s still in the market stalls, and the birds are singing and the flowers blooming.

 

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