I planted asparagus in my seventh year of living in our house, and I ate my first spear in the tenth. It took me that long, because I needed to learn that my garden space and energy should be devoted to the foods I really wanted to eat and couldn’t get for cheap. When organic local asparagus peaked at $8.99 a pound, I knew it was time.
Roasting is far and above my favorite way to cook asparagus. The insides steam and the outsides caramelize, and there are few more beautiful things to me than a baking sheet holding a chorus line of asparagus spears. They really don’t need sauce, but a great sauce can’t hurt, and yummy sauce might be the greatest I know. It made its first appearance with salmon in my book The Homemade Kitchen, but I just had to bring it back. The cheesy, ferment-y richness of nutritional yeast blends into a sauce with a flavor that everyone wants more of, yet no one can guess the main ingredient. Use it on sweet potatoes, squash, or green beans, too.
If you’re buying asparagus at the supermarket, pay attention to the heads. If they’ve begun to open, or the feathered top is slimy, look for another bunch. Always wash asparagus well, as grit tends to hide in the feathered layers of each tip.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking sheet
- 1 pound asparagus
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1½ teaspoons finely minced garlic (1 to 2 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1½ teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Generously grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
- Break the end of each asparagus stalk where it snaps naturally. (Compost the ends or save them for stock or asparagus soup.) Make sure the stalks are as dry as possible. Lay the stalks out on the baking sheet, and drizzle them with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt. Roast until the tips color, 10 to 12 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through roasting to turn the spears. Transfer the asparagus to a platter.
- While the asparagus roast, make the sauce. Combine the butter, garlic, nutritional yeast, and tamari in your smallest saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture comes together and thickens up into a sauce, 3 to 5 minutes. If it doesn’t come together, add about a tablespoon of water and stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the asparagus or serve it on the side for dipping.