Of simple Italian recipes that are almost unknown outside of Italy, Milanese-style Asparagus would probably rank near the top. This dish, traditionally associated with the city of Milan, is enjoyed all around Italy as a second course, especially in late spring, when asparagus is in season.
Before getting to the recipe, let’s spend a few words on its main ingredient. Asparagus is one of the shoots of a perennial plant called Asparagus officinalis, harvested when it reaches a length of about 8 inches and hasn’t yet developed any branches. If allowed to grow, the shoots become inedible – they gradually thin out, harden, and develop fern-like branches, up to 1.5 meters tall. Indigenous of Eurasia, Asparagus officinalis was already known in ancient Egypt, when it was eaten raw. The Greeks and the Romans are credited for learning how to cultivate it and for discovering its diuretic properties.
In North America, asparagus is mostly used as an appetizer or as a side dish (steamed, fried or char roasted), as well as in soups and quiches. In Italy, it is also used to make one kind of risotto, in ‘frittate’, as filling for ravioli or just paired up with melted butter, eggs, and Parmigiano as in this recipe.
- 1 kg of fresh asparagus, washed and with their bases trimmed
- 4 tablespoons of Parmigiano, freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 4 eggs
- Place the asparagus in a pot of salted boiling water, the spears above the waterline to be cooked by the steam. Cook for 10 minutes (15 if the stems are particularly thick). If using a large pot, the asparagus can be tied up to force them to remain vertical.
- Just before the asparagus are cooked, fry the eggs in butter, sunny-side-up, in a large non stick pan. Ensure the whites are fully firm, while the yolks are still runny.
- Gently drain the asparagus and assemble the dish in warm serving plates by layering the eggs, the asparagus (tips towards the center), and the grated Parmigiano.