This is one of my favorite ways to serve asparagus because it’s big on flavor yet incredibly simple to make. All you do is wrap big, thick asparagus spears with pancetta and sauté them in a hot pan until nice and crisp. Even though the spears are wrapped, they cook perfectly and take on the salty, “porky” flavor of the pancetta, which is so delicious! I’ve served them with simply roasted chicken and grilled salmon — both very good — but I especially love them for brunch alongside eggs or quiche.
Before we get to the recipe, a few words on pancetta, which is simply Italian bacon. Just like American bacon, it’s made from pork belly and cured — the difference is that it’s not smoked. You can find it in the deli at most supermarkets and sometimes precut and packaged in the refrigerated gourmet foods aisle. If can’t find it, bacon is a good substitute; just make sure it’s very thinly sliced so it cooks quickly and adheres to the asparagus.
Begin by wrapping each spear tightly with a slice of pancetta. Since the pancetta is sliced thin, there will be some holes; don’t worry about it.
Cook the spears in a large pan in batches, until the asparagus is just tender and the pancetta is crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels to get rid of any excess grease, then serve immediately while the pancetta is still crisp. Note that the pancetta will lose its crispness as it sits, but it will still be delicious.
Note: You can wrap the asparagus with pancetta a day ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to cook.
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Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus
- 1 bunch thick asparagus (12-15 spears; about 1 pound), trimmed
- 12-15 thin slices pancetta
- Vegetable oil
- Wrap a slice of pancetta tightly around each asparagus spear. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and coat lightly with vegetable oil (the more oil you use, the crispier the pancetta will be -- just be careful not to use too much or it will splatter). Cook the asparagus, turning as each side browns, until they are just tender and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess grease, then transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.