Nothing says spring to me more than the arrival of asparagus in the markets. Their green stalks fill the shelves, upright and dignified, like silent soldiers adorned with purple-tinged crowns. I can’t help myself: I grab one bunch, then another, heaping them in my basket, while eyeing others for even firmer, taller, more deeply colored specimens. If I see them, I’ll take them.
Once home, they need to be put to use – steamed with lemon and olive oil, oven-roasted for a little char, shaved raw into salads, and, of course, in soup. This recipe is simple and relatively minimal, as an asparagus soup should be. Too many flavors will overpower their subtle grassy flavor. A little cream is added to the soup for body and richness, and a sprinkling of Pecorino cheese for garnish adds that extra umami quality, begging for seconds.
1 pound asparagus spears
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Trim and discard the woody ends of the asparagus. Cut and reserve 4-6 asparagus tips, 2 inches in length. Slice remaining spears in 1/4 inch pieces.
Melt butter with the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté onion until translucent without browning, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and sauté until brightened in color and beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until asparagus are very tender, about 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, blanch the reserved asparagus tips in salted boiling water until bright in color, 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
Purée soup with an immersion blender or carefully in batches in a food processor. Return to soup pot. Add cream and black pepper and heat through to serving temperature. Taste for seasoning. Serve in bowls or glasses, sprinkled with pecorino cheese. Garnish with asparagus spears.