This asparagus tart, made with phyllo and cheese, is a stunning (and surprisingly simple) testament to spring.
Adapted from Alastair Hendy | Cooking for Friends | Ryland Peters & Small, 2000
When it comes to entertaining, we’re all for appearance and, let’s be honest, ease. This stunning asparagus tart recipe has got your back in all of the aforementioned categories. A handy staple for any spring occasion, whether first-course, main course, maybe even your only course.–Renee Schettler
- 1 bunch asparagus* ends snapped off
- 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 20 largish leaves), stems trimmed (optional)
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) butter melted
- 1 pound phyllo thawed according to package directions
- 1 3/4 cups grated Gruyere
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Parmesan cheese grated (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Plunge the spears into the water just until very bright green to blanch them and then, using tongs or a slotted spoon, let them slide into the ice water. Do the same with the spinach, if using.
- Meanwhile, brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a 14-inch rectangular tart pan with a little melted butter and line it with a sheet of phyllo pastry, pressing the phyllo against the side of the pan and allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the pan. Brush the top of this sheet with more butter and top it with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat until all the phyllo is used. Trim the edges of the phyllo flush with the top of the tart pan, tucking the phyllo into the corners of the pan and up the sides.
- Drain the asparagus spears and spinach, if using, and pat them completely dry. If using spinach: Arrange a layer of spinach on the phyllo. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Add the Gruyère, a second layer of spinach, and season again. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a pitcher or bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered. If not using spinach: Sprinkle the Gruyère over the phyllo. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a pitcher or bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.
- Bake the asparagus tart, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cover the center of the tart with the parchment or foil and continue to bake until the center of the tart is just set, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let the asparagus tart rest a few minutes. Garnish with grated Parmesan, if using. Slice and serve.
*What kind of asparagus is best for this recipe?Thin, spring asparagus might have been specially made for the tart treatment. The long slender spears look stunning when in alignment. You’ll need to look for slender spears that aren’t much wider at the bottom of the stalk compared to the top to ensure even cooking. The big fat stalks that you find later in the season will work just fine, too, but you may need to give them a little extra time when blanching.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This asparagus tart was creamy and cheesy and the asparagus still had a good texture after baking. The nutmeg reminded me of moussaka, but if you’re not a fan, halve the amount, omit it, or replace it with your favorite herb.
This is the first time I handled phyllo without cursing and, because of that, I recommend the recipe to all phyllo virgins. You’ll still have to work swiftly with the infamously delicate dough (keep it under a damp kitchen towel), but not to worry if the phyllo sheets tear—keep good faith and continue layering and your tart will still look good. To maintain the momentum, melt an extra tablespoon of butter in case you run out of it during the assembly process. I was too generous with the brushing at the beginning and had to pop more butter in the microwave.
Another thing to remember is to drain the asparagus and spinach well after they’ve cooled in the ice water.
My tart was baked in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate (I arranged the asparagus in a starburst pattern with the tips pointing outward) and the custard set in 25 minutes after covering with parchment.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I really liked how this asparagus tart turned out. Not only was it aesthetically beautiful but the contrast of flavors from the Gruyère and the asparagus in a custard-like layer was so delicious. The phyllo lent a complementary texture without taking over the tart (like a puff pastry would have).
I had two 14-by-5 tart pans so I made 2 tarts, just splitting the ingredients between the two pans. I arranged the asparagus so that it was lined up along both ends of each tart pan. The recipe could include more butter, as there wasn’t enough to layer between the phyllo layers and to butter the exposed pastry when baking. I used 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, but when I make this again, I’ll use the full amount. I also omitted the spinach. If you do the same, add the Gruyère before layering the asparagus. When baking for the first 15 minutes with the inside of the tart covered with foil, some of the Gruyère stuck to the foil because I layered after arranging the asparagus (this probably wouldn’t have happened if I used parchment).
Great recipe and I look forward to making it again.