Side/ Vegetarian

White Asparagus Roquefort Gratin

June 3, 2020 by Chef Molly

This White Asparagus Roquefort Gratin dish is rich, luscious, and totally decadent. And you deserve it! Simmer white asparagus stalks until tender, then bake in a cream sauce topped with crumbled roquefort cheese and breadcrumbs. Truly fantastic. 

overhead shot of white asparagus roquefort gratin

Are you on Team White Asparagus yet? White asparagus has a more mild flavor than traditional green asparagus, with usually thicker and meatier stalks. It’s fantastic in a classic French preparation like this White Asparagus Mimosa, but if you’re into getting your vegetables in a truly luxurious fashion, you’re going to love this White Asparagus Roquefort Gratin. 

You may be wondering how to cook white asparagus. In this recipe, you’ll simmer it until tender, then bake in a cream sauce accented with Parmesan and Roquefort cheese and topped with breadcrumbs. Broil the top briefly, and you’ve got a decadent side dish that will make you wonder why white asparagus isn’t more readily available. And I promise you will be counting the days until it appears back at the vegetable markets next spring. 

white asparagus, blue cheese, parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs, heavy cream, and pepper

How Do I Make White Asparagus Roquefort Gratin?

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Rinse, then peel 1 bunch of white asparagus spears (note that white asparagus always needs to be peeled because of its fibrous peel). Cut off bottom 1/2-inch of each stalk.

white asparagus being peeled with vegetable peeler

3. Bring a large skillet or saucepan of salted water to boil. The pan needs to be large enough to fit the asparagus spears.

4. Turn down heat slightly, add asparagus, and simmer for around 20 minutes. You should be able to easily pierce the asparagus stalks with a knife when they are fully cooked.

white asparagus simmering in a large saucepan of water

5. Drain carefully, as the asparagus tips are delicate, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in the bottom of a gratin dish or tart pan. 

6. While the asparagus is cooking, heat 4 ounces of heavy cream in small saucepan over medium-high heat.

7. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to thicken. Let cool for a few minutes, then stir in 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese.

cream sauce in small saucepan with rubber spatula

8. Spread sauce gently over asparagus using rubber spatula, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of crumbled roquefort cheese.

white asparagus in tart pan covered with cream sauce and roquefort cheese

9. Sprinkle with another tablespoon of parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper. 

white asparagus topped with cream sauce, roquefort cheese, and panko breadcrumbs

10. Bake for 20 min, until starting to brown. If after 20 minutes, you’d like more browning on the top, turn on the broiler and place a rack a few inches from the heat source. Move gratin dish to this rack and broil for a minute or so, until fully browned.

white asparagus roquefort gratin in tart pan with serving fork and linen napkin

For easy eating, serve with a sharp knife to slice through the asparagus stalks. 

Ingredient Notes

  • Heavy Cream: I can’t suggest a good substitute for heavy cream, since milk and even half-and-half won’t thicken as nicely as heavy cream. 
  • Parmesan Cheese: Feel free to substitute Pecorino Romano cheese or any other hard grated cheese. You could also try replacing with mozzarella cheese.
  • Roquefort Cheese: Any kind of blue cheese would work here, but I prefer the softer, silkier blue cheeses to the harder, more crumbly versions. If you don’t have blue cheese, you could try with a goat cheese as well. Keep in mind that blue cheese and goat cheese always have a better texture when you buy a wedge and crumble it yourself versus buying the precrumbled variety. 
  • Panko Breadcrumbs: I love the fluffy texture of panko breadcrumbs, with their larger crumb size, but you can substitute any breadcrumbs you have on hand. Or make your own by grinding up a piece of bread or some leftover baguette—day-old bread is usually best for making breadcrumbs since you want a drier texture. 

Can I Make this Gratin in Advance?

Yes, this gratin can be prepped up to 24 hours in advance. Prepare up until gratin is assembled and ready to go in the oven. At that point, you can cover it with foil and put it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to serve, remove the foil and pop it in the oven. You may need to cook it for a few extra minutes if it goes into the oven cold. (Or, you can remove in advance and let it come to room temperature before baking.) 

What Should I Serve with White Asparagus Gratin? 

Since this is such a rich dish, it’s best to pair it with something prepared simply. It’s fantastic next to a piece of roasted fish, and a big green salad. Serve with broiled shrimp or scallops, or a grilled chicken breast or pork tenderloin. Or, for a decadent special occasion meal, go all out and serve it with a filet mignon and some garlicky sautéed spinach on the side. 

white asparagus roquefort gratin in tart pan with serving fork cutting into gratin. bowl of roquefort cheese and wedge of parmesan in background.

What is the Difference Between White and Green Asparagus?

White asparagus has quite a cult following. It is very popular in Europe, especially in Germany. It’s sometimes known as “edible ivory” or even “white gold.” White asparagus is grown in the dark, which prevents photosynthesis and thereby the production of chlorophyll, which causes the green color in vegetables. Most production in Europe comes from France’s Loire Valley and Germany, where Germans celebrate white asparagus season with festivals and walking tours. White asparagus is often more expensive than its green brethren, in part because it has a unique cultivation process and is harvested completely by hand. In terms of flavor, white asparagus is more mild than green asparagus and a bit sweeter. 

When is White Asparagus Season?

Asparagus is a spring vegetable. Like that of green asparagus, white asparagus season in Europe is between April and June. The age of the asparagus plant can be determined by the thickness of the stems—older stalks are thicker than young ones. In white asparagus, the thicker spears are most highly sought after. 

How to Store Asparagus

As with green asparagus, white asparagus should be stored in the refrigerator. It will last at least a few days in the crisper drawer if you keep it loosely wrapped in a produce bag. To extend its shelf life, you can wrap a damp paper towel around the bottom of the stalks before putting back into the bag. In general, white asparagus generally does not keep as long as green asparagus. 

Do You Have to Peel White Asparagus?

Unlike green asparagus, which you can sometimes eat without needing to peel it, white asparagus always must be peeled. It has quite a fibrous outer layer that is too tough and woody to eat. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel off the top layer of skin, or a paring knife if you don’t have a peeler. You will also need to cut off the woody ends of the asparagus stalks. 

Other Ideas for White Asparagus Recipes

  • Poach in a mixture of water, butter, lemon juice, and salt
  • Steam using a steamer basket and serve with Hollandaise sauce or my Truffle Aioli
  • Make soup or a purée by cooking in stock and then blending
  • Serve cooked stalks sliced in a salad
  • Pickle it using white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • Serve cooked stalks wrapped in serrano ham or prosciutto
  • Roast in the oven at high heat
  • Grill (careful not to burn the outside before the stalks are tender) 
  • Use as a pizza topping, along with something salty like prosciutto or pepperoni
  • Substitute white asparagus in a traditional green asparagus dish, such as in this Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pasta (just keep in mind that white asparagus usually takes longer to cook)

Is Asparagus Good for You?

Yes. Asparagus is low in calories and fat but contains several essential vitamins and minerals. Asparagus is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, folate, and fiber. It also contains smaller amounts of potassium, phosphorus, and Vitamin E. Nutritional content varies slightly between the various types of asparagus, including white, green, and purple. For example, purple asparagus includes anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to reduce blood pressure. White asparagus has double the amount of vitamin C than green asparagus, but half as much Vitamin A.

Other Delicious Vegetable Side Dishes

I love eating seasonal vegetables—they are always so much more delicious when they come straight from the farm. For some of my favorite vegetable recipes, check out the following: 

close up of white asparagus roquefort gratin with fork
overhead shot of white asparagus roquefort gratin

White Asparagus Roquefort Gratin

Yield: Serves 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

In this White Asparagus Roquefort Gratin, white asparagus is gently simmered, then baked in a parmesan cream sauce topped with roquefort cheese and breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of thick white asparagus, about 12 spears (570g)
  • 4 oz. heavy cream (118ml)
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 50g (1.8 oz.) roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 2 T. panko breadcrumbs (or any breadcrumbs you prefer)

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius.
    2. Rinse, then peel asparagus (note that white asparagus always needs to be peeled because of its fibrous peel). Cut off bottom 1/2-inch of each stalk.
    3. Bring a large skillet or saucepan of salted water to boil. The pan needs to be large enough to fit the asparagus spears.
    4. Turn down heat slightly, add asparagus, and simmer for around 20 minutes. You should be able to easily pierce the asparagus stalks with a knife when they are fully cooked.
    5. Drain carefully, as the asparagus tips are delicate, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in the bottom of a gratin dish or tart pan.
    6. While the asparagus is cooking, heat heavy cream in small saucepan over medium-high heat.
    7. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to thicken.
    8. Let cool for a few minutes, then stir in salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese.
    9. Spread sauce gently over asparagus using rubber spatula, then sprinkle with crumbled roquefort cheese.
    10. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
    11. Bake for 20 min, until starting to brown. If after 20 minutes, you’d like more browning on the top, turn on the broiler and place a rack a few inches from the heat source. Move gratin dish to this rack and broil for a minute or so, until fully browned.

Notes

  1. For easy eating, serve with a sharp knife to slice through the asparagus stalks.
  2. Another hard grating cheese can be substituted for the parmesan cheese, such as pecorino romano.
  3. Any type of blue cheese can be used instead of roquefort, but I prefer the softer, silkier blue cheeses to the harder, more crumbly versions. If you don’t have blue cheese, you could try with a goat cheese as well. Keep in mind that blue cheese and goat cheese always have a better texture when you buy a wedge and crumble it yourself versus buying the precrumbled variety.
  4. I love the fluffy texture of panko breadcrumbs, with their larger crumb size, but you can substitute any breadcrumbs you have on hand. Or make your own by grinding up a piece of bread or some leftover baguette—day-old bread is usually best for making breadcrumbs since you want a drier texture.
  5. Gratin can prepared through step 10 up to 24 hours in advance. Cover with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 362mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Natalia
    June 3, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    Count me in the white asparagus team! I love how this sounds, healthy and delicious. Already pinned to try for dinner.

    Lindifique

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 5, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Awesome, Natalia! Hope you enjoy it. Definitely a hit for me and my husband!

  • Reply
    Katerina
    June 6, 2020 at 7:52 am

    This looks beautifully luxurious indeed, Molly! I’ve never had white asparagus and have never seen it in the shops or at the markets here but we love green asparagus . I imagine this would be a stunning side dish or a light lunch, and I am sure my whole family would love this, including the littlies (they are big fans of asparagus and melted cheese, as you can imagine). Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 8, 2020 at 11:15 am

      Yes, I’m sure it would be delicious with green asparagus as well, though the asparagus would not need to be simmered for as long as white asparagus. I had never seen the white variety until moving to France, but it’s so lovely, I hope it catches on in other parts of the world!

  • Reply
    Alex
    June 8, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Rich and luscious is such a lovely description, I think, and this looks so good! I love white asparagus!

  • Reply
    mimi rippee
    June 11, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    wonderful. the only time i’ve had white asparagus was in Germany. I guess we were there at the right time. I think i ordered it at least twice a day – white asparagus with ham and white sauce. incredible. I wish I could get it where i live… in any case, this is fabulous!

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 16, 2020 at 8:59 am

      Mmm, white asparagus with ham and white sauce sounds amazing. Germany really does it right! Glad you were able to enjoy it when you were there. 🙂

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