Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto is the perfect dish at this time of year. Fat, juicy spears of asparagus wrapped in salty prosciutto and cooked until crunchy. If the weather is lovely, pop these on the grill to crisp them up. The smell will make everyone go wild. These cloaked spears are a perfect finger food for picnics, parties or a daily treat. Asparagus are one of the very few foods that even sticklers for excruciatingly correct behaviour cannot deny are acceptable to eat with your hands. Delicately pinch the blunt end of the asparagus stem between your fingers, tilt your head back and lower the stalk into your open mouth. Asparagus offer even the genteel the primordial satisfaction of eating with your hands. Fortunately we are not constrained by outdated, rigid concepts in our house in any case.
I have also observed, from my own brood of three, that asparagus with prosciutto is a good introduction for young children to the often despised asparagus. My two-year-old attacked a platter prepared for guests arriving for an aperitivo. Tears welled in her eyes as she screamed, “Mine!” when we attempted to prise the dish from her. In the end we relented and she ran around the garden, her chubby fists filled with stalks of asparagus while we all enjoyed some drinks, watching with amusement. Now I make extra and serve her first so she won’t protectively lurk around the nibbles as guests arrive.
Asparagi e prosciutto (asparagus wrapped in prosciutto)
250 grams asparagus, rinsed, woody ends snapped off and if the asparagus are thick, then peeled with a vegetable peeler
150 grams prosciutto
black pepper, freshly ground
traditional balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, a few drops (optional)
Bring salted water to boil in a pan large enough to accommodate the asparagus. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
Lower the spears into the boiling water and cook for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Remove the asparagus from the water with a slotted spoon and drop into the ice water.
When the asparagus are cold, remove them from the ice water with a slotted spoon and dry briefly on a tea towel. Break each slice of prosciutto in half lengthwise and roll each half around an asparagus stalk. Place on a baking tray and repeat with the remaining asparagus and prosciutto until all the ingredients are used up. Either place on the barbecue or under a hot grill, turning three times, every 3 to 5 minutes as the prosciutto crisps up. Remove to a tray and grind fresh black pepper over top and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar.