Asparagus and prosciutto often appear together as an appetizer, with the ham wrapped around the asparagus. It always has struck me as a little fussy, so I’ve taken the combo and made it even more flavorful.
Make ahead: The asparagus can be blanched up to 8 hours in advance, wrapped and refrigerated until you are ready to grill. The salad is best served on the day it is made, but it can be assembled up to 2 hours in advance, then covered and refrigerated.
6 servings Ingredients Salt 1 pound asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces dried farfalline (mini bow-tie pasta) or any small dried pasta
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, preferably prosciutto di Parma, cut into thin 1-inch-long strips
About 20 large basil leaves, cut into thin 1/2-inch strips
Directions Have a large bowl of ice water at hand. Fill a medium straight-sided skillet with 1 to 2 inches of lightly salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus. Once the water returns to a boil, cook the asparagus until just tender but still firm: 1 to 2 minutes for thin spears, 3 to 4 minutes for medium-thick ones and 5 to 6 minutes for very thick ones.
Use tongs or a large slotted spoon to immediately transfer the asparagus to the ice-water bath; cool there for about 5 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. At this point, the asparagus can be wrapped in dry paper towels and refrigerated for up to 8 hours.
Prepare the grill for direct-heat cooking. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Lightly coat a grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Arrange the asparagus on a shallow plate and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste, rolling to coat them evenly. Arrange in a single layer on the grill. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then use tongs to turn the asparagus. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. The finished spears will have taken on nice grill marks but should not be burned. Transfer to a clean plate to cool, then cut the spears into 1-inch lengths.
Cook the farfalline according to the package directions. Pour the pasta into a colander and immediately rinse it with cold water.Combine the asparagus, farfalline, prosciutto and basil in a large bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon of oil. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. If the salad is dry, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.