This asparagus and arugula salad is simplicity itself. Warm blanched asparagus topped with fresh arugula, shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, a garlic vinaigrette, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
This asparagus and arugula salad is the sort of recipe you make with in-season asparagus rather than those tough and bland spears grown outside of nature’s preferences that you find in produce aisles the rest of the year. Simplicity itself.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Asparagus and Arugula Salad
- 12 to 16 medium asparagus spears (about 1/2-inch or 12 mm thick)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- Sea salt
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 ounce (30 g) sliced Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or more to taste
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1 cup arugula washed and spun dry
- Freshly ground black pepper
- First, trim the asparagus, cutting 1 or 2 inches (2.5 or 5 cm) off the woody ends. If your asparagus spears have a fairly tough outer layer, use a swivel vegetable peeler to shave the bottom 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) of the stalks, taking off the harder outer skin. As you work, toss the peeled asparagus in a shallow dish filled with cold water and let it soak for 5 minutes. Drain the asparagus.
- In a small glass bowl, combine the vinegar and a good pinch of salt. After a minute, add the garlic and vigorously whisk in the olive oil and a few drops of water. It should thicken and smooth a little.
- In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus lying flat, heat 2 inches (5 cm) water over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add a good pinch of salt, then add the asparagus and put a lid on the pan. Allow the water to return to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low to maintain a gentle boil. The asparagus should be done in 3 to 4 minutes, when they are slightly softened but still firm. If it’s the very skinny early asparagus, it will be done in 1 minute.
☞TESTER TIP: If you smell asparagus while it's cooking, you're at the edge of cooking it too long. So get them out of the water quickly and drain them well.
- Place the asparagus on a warmed platter. Sprinkle them with some sea salt, some grated Parmesan, and a little lemon juice. Place the arugula on top, add the vinaigrette and the shaved Parmesan, and finish with a couple grindings of black pepper. Then prepare to lick the plate clean.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This lovely combination of asparagus, arugula, and Parmesan added a fantastic “spring” element to our dinner. My normally anti-asparagus family gobbled up the whole plate of asparagus and were practically licking the remaining cheese and dressing in the bottom of the dish. Okay, that last part was me, but it really was that good.
This recipe will be at the top of my list each time asparagus season returns. A very elegant, delicious dish with minimal effort. I loved the technique of shaving the bottom of the stalks—this kept them very tender. While the stalks were hydrating, I made the dressing, and shaved the cheese.
This is a very tasty veggie dish. The vinaigrette and Parmesan really add to the asparagus and arugula and bring it to a new level. I am going to use this recipe for Easter next year for the family.
This is a beautiful dish for spring. The dressing was a little skimpy, otherwise the flavor is great.
This was a an easy-to-follow recipe that had exceedingly delicious results. The tangy vinaigrette was unexpectedly tasty alongside rich Parmesan and crisp asparagus.
The one tricky part of this recipe is knowing when to remove the asparagus spears from the water since they vary so much in thickness. The author offers the tip of waiting for the scent of asparagus, but I double-checked using my pasta method: near the end of cooking, taste a bite every 30 to 60 seconds to make certain you have the right texture. I used 16 asparagus that were roughly the width of a pencil (relatively thin).
I taste-tested at 1 minute, but found the spears too firm. At 2 minutes, they were better, so I removed and drained them at 2 1/2 minutes.
I loved the presentation of the final dish. Elegant but very easy to assemble.
The final dish was absolutely delicious. I just loved the sour vinaigrette and pungent garlic. I want to make it again and add cherry tomatoes as a nice summery side. To me, this was only about 2 servings, but it may have been because my asparagus were skinnier.
We very much enjoyed this dish. There’s a nice balance of flavors coming from the vinaigrette, the cheese, the nuttiness of the arugula, and the lemon. It can be served as a lunch salad or as a side for dinner.
For the record, I grated half of the cheese and sliced the other half with a vegetable peeler.
It’s the second week of outdoor farmers markets and asparagus is everywhere, so I picked up a bunch to use for this recipe. The bunch had every size of asparagus from pencil thin to very thick, so I wondered when I got home how it would work for this recipe. (Spoiler alert!) It didn’t matter in the end that the spears were of as many thicknesses as there were spears.
My asparagus had no woodiness and there was not any hard outer skin to peel off. I trimmed some off of the bottoms anyway, and ended up with lengths ranging from several inches to 8 or so inches. I followed the directions in the order given; doing this again, I would start by putting the water on to heat so that it’s ready when you need it. My dressing thickened and smoothed as described. I put my asparagus in a two quart saucepan to heat, which could have been used for the soaking in step 1, in order to save a dish. All of my asparagus was done in one minute, and I very much appreciated the clue about the smell being a guide: it’s what prevented me from overcooking my spears.
Then comes the cheese part: you could use all grated, all sliced, or any combination in between and everything would be just fine. I used a big fat juicy wedge of lemon along with maybe 4 grindings of pepper—definitely more than a couple!
This could serve one as a main dish for lunch or a light dinner, alongside a crusty roll, for example; it could serve two as a side dish, and 4 as a smallish but lovely starter salad course. It would be easy to double or triple or quadruple.
Originally published April 13, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Asparagus was always my father’s favorite vegetable, and its short season and high price made it even more precious. This recipe offers a fine way to enjoy the delicacy with minimal adornment—just enough to highlight its beauty. I first looked at this as a salad, but it is really more a way to showcase asparagus with a garnish of another vibrant spring plant, arugula.
In keeping with the theme of youthfulness and spring, the recipe seems also intended to use a young Parmesan, which I did not have. Both Parmesan and vinaigrette match well with asparagus, and this bright red wine vinaigrette (enhanced with the application of a little fresh lemon juice) proves a great choice of minimalist dressing.