Store bought asparagus has the slight drawback of having tough ends. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on freshly harvested asparagus, you’ll likely be able to eat your spears all the way to the end. But for the most part, the asparagus you find at the grocery store will have tough, woody ends. But, believe it or not, you can put those less than tender portions of the spear to good use. Here are our three favorite things to do with asparagus ends and a recipe for a truly delicious Asparagus End Pesto with Fettuccine.
This is the End
First things first, how do you remove those asparagus ends and how do you tell where the tender portion ends and tough begins? Well, the short answer to that is the asparagus will tell you. You’ll find the asparagus will naturally break at the right place. Place your hands about ¾ of the way down the spear and give it a light bend. The asparagus will break at the point where the texture shifts. From here, you can trim up the ends for a tidier look. Once the ends are removed from the spears, you can either use them right away or transfer them to a freezer bag and freeze them for later use. They will keep well in the freezer for a minimum of a month.
Make a Stock
So that’s how you remove the ends, but what do you do with them next? Well, there are a few things you can do and the first and most common is stock. This route completely removes the asparagus ends questionable texture from the equation. All you’re using them for is their flavor. Basically, all you have to do is pop the ends in a vat of water alongside your favorite aromatics. Carrots, onion, celery, bay leaves, and few peppercorns are our go-tos. Bring everything up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. And let it go for a good 2 hours. At the end you will have a good clear broth rich in asparagus flavor that can be used in any soup, stew, or risotto recipe your heart desires.
Dress it up
Regardless of what you choose to do with your asparagus ends, you must first boil them. Now, asparagus ends are quite fiborous, so give them ample time to breakdown in a pot of boiling water. From there you can either strain the water and discard the ends as we mentioned above or you can puree the ends. And the you can pass the puree throught a fine mesh strainer to creat a smooth, thick sauce. You can whisk this together with equal parts olive oil and vinegar, a minced clove of garlic, and a little salt and pepper. And just like that you have a creamy vinaigrette perfect for any spring salad.
From Puree to Pesto
Finally, you can turn those asparagus ends into pesto like we did in the recipe below. Again, boil your ends in salted water for a good 40 minutes. We added a few cloves of garlic to the water to both mellow the garlic and flavor the ends. Place the ends in a food processor alongside some nuts, cheese, herbs and a whole whack of olive oil and puree your way to pesto. You can get creative with the nuts and herbs you use. We used almonds, but pistachios, walnuts, and pecans all work beautifully as well. And if you’re keen to keep things traditional, pinenuts are the way to go. Parsley was our herb of choice but dill, basil, and chives would do the trick. You can also play with the cheese as well. We used a Grana Padano but pecorino or classic Parmigiano Reggiano would be delicious as well.
Serves 4 servings
25 minPrep Time
55 minCook Time
1 hr, 20 Total Time
- 1 bunch Ontario-grown asparagus, ends removed and reserved
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 200g almonds, roasted unsalted
- ½ cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup Grana Padano, shredded
- 454g (1 lb) uncooked fettuccine
- 3 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Place the asparagus ends in a small saucepan and cover them with cold water. Add the garlic cloves and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and liberally salt the water. Boil the ends for 40 minutes or until extremely tender. Drain the ends and set aside to cool slightly.
- When the ends are a little cooler, place them in a large food processor. Add the almonds and parsley. Blitz until the mixture resembles mulch.
- Set the food processor to low and slowly stream in the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the salt and blitz for a moment more. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and fold in the Grana Padano. Set the pesto aside.
- Take the asparagus stalks and remove the tips. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the stems into ribbons and set them aside.
- Bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Once the water is boiling, liberally salt the water and add the fettuccine. Cook according to the package’s directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a quarter-sized amount of olive oil in a large deep skillet. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and a good pinch of salt. Saute over medium-low heat until translucent.
- Deglaze the pan with white wine and transfer the now-cooked fettuccine from it’s pot to the pan. Reserve ½ a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Add the asparagus and ½ cup of the pesto. Toss the pasta to coat and disperse the asparagus throughout. Use as much pasta water as necessary to generate a smooth silky sauce.
- Take the pasta off of the heat and divide across four bowls. Top with additional Grana Padano and serve.
Post by Susan of Rhubarb and Cod