Roasted Asparagus with Panzanella

I took a trip recently to see Jenna and of course it was filled with lots of food and lots of fun. We went to this fantastic new restaurant in downtown Minneapolis called Bar La Grassa. Think hip atmosphere and lots of Italian specialties with a modern twist. You can order everything in a small portion so that you can taste a lot of dishes, which is my favorite way to eat at a new place. Jenna and I died over so many of the dishes, especially the pasta, but this roasted asparagus with panzanella was amazing. I knew I could take a crack at it when I got home and this is what came out. This is a great side dish to any meal and I will absolutely make this over and over again. Hopefully I am doing this restaurant justice with my recipe and thank you for the inspiration! Two notes, try to cut all the veggies the same size. I did it in a small cube. My pancetta had some heat to it, which I loved, but if you can't find that, just add some crushed red pepper before simmering the veggies to add a little heat.

Roasted Asparagus with Panzanella
Forks & Amusement 2010
makes 4 side dish portions

1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
olive oil
2 thick slices pancetta, small dice
2 large slices of your favorite bread, small cubes
1 medium onion, small dice
1 red pepper, small dice
1 small eggplant, small dice
1 zucchini, small dice
24 oz can of whole tomatoes, drained and crushed with your hands
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (you can use red wine vinegar as a substitute)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat and arrange them so it is one layer. Roast in the oven until cooked through, but still crisp, about 25 minutes.

In a large skillet or pot, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp, stirring often. Remove pan from heat and place pancetta on paper towel lined plate reserving fat in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat and cook bread cubes in pancetta fat until crisp and crunchy, stirring often. Remove pan from heat and add the bread cubes to the plate with the pancetta.

Return pan to medium heat and add a bit more olive oil if there no longer is any oil in the pan. Enough to just coat it. Add the onion and red pepper and cook until just tender. Add in the eggplant and zucchini, tossing everything together, cook until eggplant and zucchini is tender. Stirring often. Add the tomatoes and vinegar to the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze and combine all ingredients. Add the garlic and salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down to medium low and let simmer for 15 minutes. When it is done, all the vegetables should be cooked through, but not so soft that they loose their shape.

Place vegetable mixture in a large serving platter. Sprinkle the reserved crispy pancetta and bread cubes over the vegetables. Top with roasted asparagus and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve hot or at room temperature.


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