At first glance, roasting seems like a terrible thing to do to a beautiful vegetable like asparagus. Unlike steaming or boiling, which preserve the velvety greenness, or grilling, which adds delicate char marks, roasting results in a pan full of limp, withered, khaki-colored stalks. (There's a reason we aren't showing a photo.)
But in our opinion, nothing brings out the flavor of asparagus like a roasting in a hot oven. And unlike steaming, boiling, or grilling, roasting does not require a light hand—we've found that the worse the finished product looks, the better it tastes.
You can roast either thick or thin stalks, but the thicker stalks are best suited to this rough treatment.
1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash the asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Save the trimmings, as they are excellent in soup stock.
3. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on a baking pan—a tablespoon should do it. Lay the asparagus on the pan in a single layer, rolling them around a bit in the oil. Salt lightly.
4. Roast until the asparagus is done to your liking. This really is a matter of taste: 20 minutes might be enough for some people, leaving the stalks green and a bit moist; others might prefer 40 minutes of high heat, which will condense the stalks and turn the tips crispy. Experiment to see what works for you.
Sometimes we like to finish the asparagus with a little good balsamic vinegar, but usually we enjoy the concentrated flavor on its own.