If you’re looking for a too-easy-to-believe appetizer, then this recipe is for you. It requires a mere three ingredients and just minutes to prepare. The asparagus are easily assembled in advance and ready to pop into the oven or on the grill when you are ready to serve. They make a great appetizer to pass around while the rest of your meal is cooking and require only your fingers for eating.
Yet, as simple as this recipe is, there are also a few (simple) tips to ensure success.
To trim asparagus, snap the ends off first. The ends will easily break off when you bend the base of the asparagus. These are the woody bits that are difficult to chew. You can then neatly trim the stalks with a paring knife.
While you can certainly splurge and use luscious, supple prosciutto di Parma or prosciutto di San Daniele, feel free to substitute a less expensive prosciutto-style ham. Since the key to these asparagus is to slightly dry out and crisp the prosciutto while roasting, the nuance of the finer ham may be lost (along with the extra pennies you spent on it).
Choose asparagus of equal thickness to ensure even cooking time. Avoid thin asparagus, since they will cook very quickly, losing their color and firmness before the prosciutto is crisp. Medium-thick stalks are best. Once cooked, the asparagus should be tender but still firm and not limp.
Three ingredients are all you need … or four or five. I prefer to simply wrap the ham around the asparagus with just a light brush of olive oil. The saltiness of the ham will be amplified when cooked, which provides all the seasoning you need for these bites. However, if you want to get a little more fancy, you can also add a sprinkle of Parmesan and lemon zest for extra bling and flavor.
Makes 12; serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer
12 medium-thick asparagus spears, about 1 pound
2 ounces prosciutto (at least 6 slices), halved lengthwise
Finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees or prepare a grill for indirect cooking over medium heat.
Snap off the tough, woody ends of the asparagus and neatly trim the stalks with a knife.
Place a piece of prosciutto on a work surface. If using Parmesan, lightly sprinkle the ham with the cheese. Arrange a spear at the base of the prosciutto and tightly wrap the ham up around the spear on the diagonal. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or on a grill pan and repeat with the remaining asparagus. Lightly brush the asparagus with oil.
Cook until the asparagus are tender, but still firm, bright green in color, and the ham begins to dry and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven or grill and garnish with lemon zest or additional cheese, if desired. Serve warm.
Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer.