When I make asparagus, nine times out of ten, I roast it. Steamed asparagus is good and sautéed asparagus is better, but neither compare to roasted asparagus. Just like with cauliflower, roasting mellows the flavor of asparagus. It gets caramelized and tender and just perfect in every way. As soon as I saw spring asparagus at the grocery store, I knew I had to buy it, but other than roasting it, I wasn't sure what to do with it.
I played around with different ideas and settled on a sandwich. Roasted asparagus sandwich! You never see asparagus on a sandwich, right?! But then the more I thought about it, I realized there's probably a reason for that—asparagus would be a little bit unwieldy on a sandwich. So I decided to make an asparagus pesto to spread onto the sandwich and I topped that with roasted shiitake mushrooms and Fontina cheese.
Believe it or not, I grilled this on my Griddler, but I can never get nice grill marks on my panini, no matter how long I let it sit on there. Well, the inside still got nice and melty, which is more important than the aesthetics, I think.
Served with a light spring salad, this Shiitake Panini with Roasted Asparagus Pesto is a great way to say hello to asparagus season. Hello, asparagus season! I will enjoy the heck out of you!
- olive oil mister or cooking spray
- 1 bunch asparagus ends trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
- 6 oz shiitake mushrooms stems removed and caps cut into thick strips
- ¼ cup almonds toasted
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread cut into four equal pieces and halved lengthwise
- 1 cup Fontina cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil mister.
- Place shiitake mushrooms on one side of baking sheet and place asparagus and garlic cloves on other side. Spray tops with additional olive oil. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until vegetables are softened and just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
- Transfer asparagus and garlic to food processor. Add almonds and olive oil. Pulse until finely chopped but not mashed; season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat electric grill or panini press on high. Spread asparagus pesto on each half of ciabatta bread. Top four bottom pieces of bread with a quarter of the mushrooms and ¼ cup of cheese. Place other half of bread on top and press down.
- Transfer panini to grill and close lid. Grill for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.