Spring’s bright, fresh vegetables don’t need heavy sauces to dress them up—they are best served with a light adornment so that their natural tastes can shine through. In this easy, 25-minute recipe for asparagus, a stress-free cheese sauce is made by simmering heavy cream until thickened, then stirring in Parmesan cheese. A word of advice: this cheese sauce for asparagus will set up if left to cool, so you want to keep it warm if you are not serving it right away. The asparagus should also be served almost immediately after broiling, or it will turn an ugly dark green if allowed to sit too long. Headed to the farmers’ market for fresh produce, including asparagus? Get there early for the freshest picks. Don't buy stalks that look dried out, shriveled, or look less than fresh. And don't let fresh asparagus waste away in your fridge! It's best the first few days after it's purchased. Check out these recipes for inspiration. Snap off any hard ends and trim feathery tips before you start cooking. That way, the asparagus will be ready to eat as soon as it's cooked.

Liz Mervosh
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Ingredients

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Directions

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  • Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high. Add panko, crushed red pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and tarragon; set aside.

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  • Preheat oven to high broil with rack in middle position. Place asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and broil until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes (do not stir).

  • While asparagus broils, place heavy cream in a small skillet. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium, stirring occasionally. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until completely melted and smooth after each addition.

  • Arrange broiled asparagus on a platter. Spoon cheese sauce over asparagus, and sprinkle with panko mixture and lemon zest.