This recipe is simplicity at its finest.
With just a few ingredients, you can make an easy and elegant vegetable dish to accompany any special meal.
Asparagus is a unique delight, especially when roasted. While the outside of the stalk stays just a little firm and lightly charred, the inside is so tender, almost buttery. And the feathery tips cook to a light and crispy texture that’s delicate enough to swiftly dissolve when you’re eating them.
Clearly, there’s no doubt that any roasted veggie is perfect when eaten on its own, with just a bit of salt and pepper.
But for a different experience, serve these soft and beautifully blistered spears with walnut crema, a thick and creamy sauce made by processing together walnuts, sautéed onions, olive oil, and a hint of lemon zest.
Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and shaved pecorino cheese for that perfect final touch.
You can choose to serve this dish family-style, with a large pile of asparagus on top of a dollop of crema. But if you are aiming to impress guests, release your inner dinner party warrior, and create individual plates.
A small, artful smear of the sauce, with five or six spears strategically placed on top, daintily garnished with a few pieces of toasted nuts and cheese…
Yup. Totally be that person.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather and Prep Ingredients
Set out the walnuts, olive oil, cheese, and salt and pepper.
Using a zester or microplane, grate the lemon peel.
Step 2 – Boil the Walnuts
Fill the large pot with water, and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
Add 1 cup walnuts, and boil them for 8-10 minutes, or until very tender. Remove from the water and set aside. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Ensure that the nuts are tender – the soft texture will help them blend better into a smooth sauce in the next step.
Step 3 – Make the Crema
In the medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped red onions and cook for 5 minutes, until golden-brown and softened.
With the motor running, slowly add 1/2 cup of olive oil, blending to the texture of a very creamy hummus. If it looks too thick, add a little more of the reserved cooking water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Step 4 – Roast the Asparagus
Spread the asparagus in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper.
Now would be a great time to use a new variety of salt you’ve been thinking of purchasing. There’s so many to try! Read up on some of the best foodie salts to use in cooking.
Roast for about 8-10 minutes, flipping the spears over once, until they are slightly blistered and tender when pierced with a fork.
Step 5 – Toast the Walnuts
Heat the small skillet on low heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts and toast, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned and fragrant.
Be careful to not burn them! Stay with the pan, resisting any urges to leave or do something else. They only need a minute or so to be perfectly toasted.
Step 6 – Assemble and Serve
On your serving platter, spoon the crema across the bottom.
Place the spears of asparagus on top. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the pecorino generously over the platter, and sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top of that. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Serve immediately while still warm.
A Simple, Easy, and Elegant Vegetable Side Dish
You don’t need a long list of ingredients to make a beautiful side dish for dinner.
As long as you have a delectably fresh vegetable, a hot oven, and a few other kitchen staples, you’re well on your way to becoming the classiest chef ever.
So, embody that sophistication, and impress your guests with this beautiful presentation of roasted asparagus, walnut crema, and pecorino cheese.
If you love the taste of these green spears, be sure to check out our Asparagus Cooking Guide. And try our other recipes featuring this great stalk, like our risotto with lemon or black-eyed pea salad.
And feel free to substitute other vegetables for the asparagus – the flavor combinations would work perfectly with zucchini, broccoli, or green beans.
How do you take just a few ingredients and transform them into an amazing dish? What do you think of this nut-based sauce? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!
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Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on April 15th, 2009. Last updated: March 17, 2019 at 8:29 am.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a hungry foodie living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she is not tearing through her city's best grub, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.