Set aside your other sides – there’s a new showstopper in town. Super fresh Asparagus Salad is bright, balanced, and beautiful. And the flavor will blow your mind. Perfectly ripe asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and peppery basil are tossed with toasted almonds, crispy pancetta and parmesan, then finished with a punchy lemon dressing.
Occasionally, I outdo myself. This is one of those times.
In fact, I didn’t even think this asparagus salad would make it to the blog after the first iteration. But if you regularly follow me for vegetable-related shenanigans (especially summery shenanigans) then you know I do not f#@! around when it comes to produce. And I nailed this one.
You ever have a moment in your life, where you are working on something – could be building your own kitchen cabinetry, could be writing a memoir, could be building a pivot table, or it could be bringing more than a dozen shopping bags in from the car in one trip without hurting yourself – but you do it like, 100x more successfully than you imagined you would, and you are so excited that you share the journey to that success with someone, and they just… stare at you and give you that “Aww. Bless your heart” smile? Well that’s this. And if you’re not smiling now, you will be once you’ve tasted the fruits of my labor. (And by fruits, I mean veggies.)
Watch the Recipe Video!
I adore asparagus. I have long preached that “simple grilled asparagus is one of the greatest gifts to mankind.” I thought lemon, garlic, and parmesan were the pinnacle of flavor pairings. (And don’t get me wrong, because my lemon garlic chicken and asparagus skillet and simple roasted lemon garlic asparagus definitely make that case.)
But there’s more – so much more – that this asparagus salad brings to the table. And developing this recipe made me realize I have been hiding asparagus’ light under a bushel basket, so time to let it out!
Key Ingredients for Asparagus Salad
Asparagus: first and foremost, asparagus salad calls for raw asparagus, not cooked, so you need to make sure your stalks are at their peak. Purchase the day of making, if possible.
Select tightly packed, firm asparagus stalks with firm tips that have no signs of wilt or mush. Look for uniform size.
Thin vs. fat does not matter, but for this particular salad, I’m gonna be Goldilocks and say in between is “just right,” both for aesthetic and textural purposes. Slice thinly on the bias for crunchy bites that are easy to manage. See below for tips on trimming the ends.
Tomatoes: use grape or cherry tomatoes for this recipe. Not only do they look lovely, but there’s less moisture to deal with out of the gate.
Pancetta: while both pancetta and bacon are cured, pancetta isn’t smoked, and it makes a world of difference. You CAN use bacon, but I really, really, really want you to try this asparagus salad with pancetta. Really. Most grocery stores carry it nowadays, but if you’ve got an Italian specialty market that’s accessible to you, run don’t walk.
Almonds: use thinly sliced (or slivered in a pinch). Do NOT skip toasting them in Step #2 (see recipe card below) – it adds so much flavor.
Parmesan Cheese: freshly shaved, wafer thin, right off the block.
Fresh Basil: MUST be fresh.
Lemon Dressing: it’s too easy to make your own, so put away the bottle. You will not believe how good this fresh dressing is on this salad. Like, you can taste the difference no additives makes.
- Prepping asparagus is as easy as holding a piece in both hands, then bending the stalk and allowing it to snap at its natural breaking point. Since you’ll eventually slice on the bias anyway, you can feel free to trim the ends with a chef’s knife right away and continue cutting each stalk. Just make sure you get the fibrous ends off completely.
- No need to let it sit! It’s actually best served straight away while the asparagus spears are still crisp and the pancetta is warm/room temperature.
- That being said, it’s good as leftovers for the next day; third day is a stretch (tomatoes will weep too much liquid). If you intend to store the leftovers, omit the cheese and add just before eating.
Serve Asparagus Salad With…
The bright acidity in asparagus salad makes it particularly good with rich proteins. If your first thought is “steak,” then you’re on the right track. Either Grilled Flat Iron Steak or Grilled Rosemary Flank Steak are perfect summertime companions for this side salad.
More Surprising Summery Side Salads
- Mango Salad with Avocado and Lime
- Tomato Corn Salad with Avocado and Buttermilk Dressing
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Stone Fruit Salad with Tomato and Burrata
- Tomato Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Did you make this asparagus salad? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
Asparagus Salad RecipePrint Recipe Rate this Recipe
- 4 oz pancetta, diced
- ½ c sliced almonds
- 1 lb asparagus, thinly sliced along the bias or shaved
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- ¼ c shaved parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 6 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp honey, or agave
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ small shallot, minced
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ c extra virgin olive oil
- Place the pancetta into a 10” skillet. Heat over a medium flame. Saute the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the pancetta is crisp, 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
- Meanwhile, toast the almonds. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds into an even layer on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and toast, stirring once halfway through, until very fragrant and lightly golden brown, 8-9 minutes.
- Trim the asparagus spears, then slice into thirds. Slice each third on the bias (make angled cuts into each piece, slicing from top to bottom on the diagonal).
- Make the vinaigrette. Whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, dijon mustard, honey, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the dressing is emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, or sweetener until the flavor is to your liking.
- In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, pancetta, almonds, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil. Pour half the vinaigrette over the salad. Toss until well combined. Serve immediately, drizzling with more dressing to taste.