This baked asparagus with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar is an Italian-inspired side dish made by baking tender blanched asparagus spears with a sprinkling of nutty Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
LC Asparagus of All Sorts Note
This indulgent approach to eating your veggies cleverly calls for first blanching, and then roasting, the asparagus. Rather than being redundant, the cooking tactic levels the playing field for spears of all thicknesses, ensuring they come out of the oven perfectly cooked at the precise moment its mantle of cheese turns handsomely burnished. This spear-savvy trick is a godsend for entertaining, allowing you to nonchalantly slide the dish in the oven minutes before the meal, as if it were no effort at all. You’re welcome.
Wine Note: Serve this dish as a spring appetizer with Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Chardonnay, its perfect match.
Baked Asparagus with Parmesan and Balsamic Vinegar
- Quick Glance
- 20 M
- 30 M
- Serves 4 to 6
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175˚C).
If using ridiculously pricy, top-notch balsamic vinegar, skip this step. Otherwise, throw the windows open and turn on the exhaust fan. Then place the vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, swirling the pan occasionally, until the vinegar is reduced by half, anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the saucepan. Remove from the heat.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and the asparagus and blanch until barely tender, about 1 minute for spears of average thickness, more for thicker spears and less for skinnier ones. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Pat the asparagus dry with paper towels.
Place the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or, if necessary, two sheets. Sprinkle the spears with salt to taste, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and turn to coat. Shower the asparagus with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Bake until the spears are tender and the cheese is browned and almost bubbling (it won’t actually melt), about 5 minutes.
Use a spatula to shimmy the asparagus from the baking sheet to a platter. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reduced balsamic vinegar or a few drops of the really top notch stuff and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Serve immediately, with the remaining reduced balsamic vinegar on the side. Originally published February 28, 2011.
In Advance Advice
You can blanch the asparagus and assemble the dish hours ahead of time, keeping it at room temperature until you slide it in the oven.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Wow! We’ll eat our vegetables like this every night. This combination of still slightly crisp asparagus, nutty cheese, and the sweet balsamic vinegar was a combination made in heaven.
The recipe was such that you could blanch the asparagus ahead of time, then just top it with cheese and olive oil and pop it in the oven at the last minute. I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt on the asparagus in addition to the 1 tablespoon in the simmering water.
This is the PERFECT side for grilled meat, roast chicken, or the braised short ribs that I served. We also loved the extra balsamic vinegar on the side—we kept dipping our asparagus in it. A delightful and delicious dish to add to my vegetable file!
If you don’t like asparagus, you need to try this recipe. It’s fantastic. I’ve always wanted to like asparagus, and I keep trying different recipes—but this one has converted me. This is very simple and quick to prepare.
Our asparagus were very thin so I didn't blanch them. My only reason for not calling it absolutely perfect is that the Parmesan did not stick to the asparagus when it melted, it just sort of clumped up. Next time I’ll use a microplane grater on the cheese instead of finely grating it.