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Given that most produce is available in grocery stores year round, it’s easy to forget that fruits and vegetables indeed have seasons in which they’re at their peak of freshness, when they’re the most colorful and flavorful — and not to mention the most economical. For asparagus, that time to shine is early-to-middle springtime, which means that the bundles at farmers’ markets and supermarkets right now are some of the best you’ll find all year. Celebrate the season’s bounty by putting asparagus to work in quick, family-friendly recipes like vegetable side dishes, healthful salads and quick pastas. We’ve rounded up Food Network’s top-five asparagus dishes — a mix of traditional and creative takes on this simple-to-make vegetable — ideal for casual weeknight suppers and dressed-up dinners alike. Check out our favorite picks below, then browse Food Network’s entire collection of asparagus recipes to find more fresh inspiration.
5. Corn and Asparagus Salad — In just 20 quick minutes, Paula dresses tender asparagus and vibrant corn with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette for a light side dish that complements any hearty entree.
4. Quinoa Salad With Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Black Olives — Think of quinoa as a blank canvas through which you can showcase favorite ingredients and textures, like Bobby does in his five-star recipe by adding to it trimmed asparagus, fresh thyme and creamy goat cheese.
3. Penne With Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes — Ready to eat in the little time it takes to cook the noodles, Giada’s top-rated pasta features a vegetable-based sauce that’s held together with chicken stock and nutty Parmesan cheese.
2. Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles — For a party-ready side dish that’s easy to prepare yet elegant in presentation, opt for Rachael’s individual servings of peppered asparagus blanketed in smoky bacon and baked until tender.
1. Roasted Asparagus (pictured above) — Instead of masking the asparagus with added flavors, Ina lets the simple beauty of the vegetable shine in her deliciously foolproof recipe, made with just olive oil and seasonings. Click the play button on the video below to watch how she makes this big-batch classic.