Asparagus Gratin

asparagus gratin in an oval baking dish

Asparagus Gratin is an easy and elegant spring side dish with a decidedly French accent! It’s equally good as part of a fancy feast, or a quiet dinner for two. There are many ways to enjoy asparagus, but you haven’t lived, asparagus-wise, until you’ve tried this luxe gratin.

asparagus gratin in an oval baking dish

This classic asparagus gratin dish is utterly simple, but deserves the best ingredients ~

The seasoning is super minimal in this classic French dish, so the ingredients themselves have to shine.

  • the freshest asparagus ~ you can use thick or thin spears, see below.
  • fresh milk, cream, and butter.
  • nutty aged cheese ~ Gruyere with a little Parm is my choice, but there are lots of aged cheeses to try, even a good sharp cheddar.
  • crisp panko breadcrumbs toasted in a little butter ~ the very soul of a gratin.

asparagus spears

is thick or thin asparagus better?

Thick and thin asparagus both have advantages, it just depends on what you’re cooking.  It’s a myth that skinny asparagus is younger than the fatter ones. They’re essentially different varieties, and both are tender and equally healthy.

I like to use thin asparagus for salads, pasta dishes, stir frys, or any time I want to quick cook it and retain some bright crunch.

Thicker asparagus is wonderfully tender and luxurious, but takes longer to cook. Research reveals that, when it comes to asparagus, fatter spears are actually a tad more tender than their thinner counterparts ~ who knew?

I’ve made this gratin with both thin and thick stalks with equal success, but if I’m using thick stalks I’ll blanch them briefly first, so they’ll have a chance to cook through in the oven. The thin spears cook so quickly they can go right into the gratin raw, which is super convenient.

asparagus in gratin dish

my method for making asparagus au gratin (can be adapted to many different veggies)

  1. Blanch the asparagus briefly in boiling water, if necessary. For thinner stalks, just arrange them in a buttered gratin dish. I like all my tips going in the same direction 🙂
  2. Make a quick béchamel sauce: whisk melted butter and flour together in a saucepan and cook for a minute. Gradually add milk and cream, stirring constantly until thickened.
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheeses and seasonings. Pour over the asparagus.
  4. Bake the gratin for about 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
  5. Meanwhile toast the breadcrumbs in some melted butter on the stove top.
  6. Top with toasted breadcrumbs toward the end of cooking.

asparagus gratin, bubbling hot from the oven

pan toasted panko breadcrumbs are the perfect topping for a gratin

Gratin is a technique, not a recipe, and it refers to baking something with a crumb topping. It stands to reason, then, that the breadcrumbs in this recipe are an essential ingredient.

Panko are Japanese style breadcrumbs with a special texture that makes them extra crunchy. You’ll find them right next to the ordinary breadcrumbs in your supermarket. I’ll toast the crumbs with some butter and salt in a pan while the gratin is baking. This breaks with tradition in that the crumbs are usually added to the dish before baking. I find my method keeps the crumbs crunchier, and prevents them from getting too browned, or burning, in the oven.

closeup of the crumb topping for asparagus gratin

a secret ingredient for gratins

In my opinion no gratin is complete without a touch of freshly ground nutmeg, it’s the secret ingredient that makes this asparagus gratin utterly irresistible! I keep a jar of whole nutmeg in my spice cabinet at all times, and use a microplane grater to add it to this and lots of other recipes for a subtle flavor that I just love.

Serving up an asparagus gratin with a silver spoon

what to serve with asparagus gratin


Reader Rave ~

“This dish is scrumptious. The sauce is velvet deliciousness. A nice alternative for my favorite spring vegetable. I made a couple of hours ahead then popped into the oven with my entree.”  ~ JHK


 

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asparagus gratin in an oval baking dish
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3.76 from 61 votes

Asparagus Gratin

This Asparagus Gratin is a luxurious comforting side dish with a decidedly French accent!  Make it part of a fancy spring feast, or a quiet dinner for two.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Yield 6 servings
Calories 322kcal
Author Sue Moran

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 3 tbsp (42 grams) butter
  • 3 Tbsp (28 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (237 ml) milk
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup (125 grams) shredded Gruyere cheese

topping

  • 1/4 cup (21 grams) panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp 14 grams) butter

Instructions

  • Set oven to 375F Butter a gratin dish.
  • Wash and trim the ends off the asparagus. If the stalks are thin, just arrange them in your gratin dish. If the stalks are thick, you'll want to pre-cook them just a bit. Blanch them in boiling water for about a minute or so to tenderize it a bit. Bring water to a boil, add the asparagus, and start timing right then. Drain and arrange in your gratin dish.
    fresh asparagus in a gratin dish
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, and whisk in the flour. Cook for just a minute, but don't let it brown. Then whisk in the milk and cream and blend well. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue heating until the sauce thickens, stirring or whisking constantly.
    making cheesy gratin sauce
  • Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the cheeses until the they melt and the sauce is smooth.
    Adding shredded cheese to a gratin sauce
  • Pour the sauce over the asparagus and bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbling and beginning to brown. Toward the end of cooking, top the gratin with the breadcrumbs. Note: I top with the breadcrumbs about halfway through cooking so they don't brown too much.
    asparagus gratin, ready to bake
  • Serve asap!
    asparagus gratin just out of the oven

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 319mg | Potassium: 258mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1436IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 405mg | Iron: 2mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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39 Comments

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  • Reply
    Kay Braun
    April 18, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Sue,
    Can this be prepped a day ahead and put in the oven before dinner? I’m not sure how the sauce would hold up…if it would change the consistency.

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 18, 2019 at 9:41 am

      I think the sauce would hold up fine, but I would keep the sauce separate, and then assemble and bake the next day.

  • Reply
    Joshstradomus Funkapotomus
    July 23, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    I like to add some slightly pan roasted pine nuts to my own recipe, cracked with the flat edge of a knife. Yum I want to make some now…

    • Reply
      Sue
      July 23, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      Toasted pine nuts make EVERYTHING better!

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    April 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    What a delicious way to celebrate asparagus season! Asparagus is one my husband’s least favorite vegetables but I think he would love it prepared this way.

  • Reply
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen
    April 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

    This not only looks beautiful I am sure it must taste divine. Very French and elegant. I love a touch of nutmeg in my bechamel too.
    Sam

  • Reply
    shannon weber
    April 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    this looks BEAUTIFUL. And i just added Manger to my RSS feed, because wow; just wow. I’m going to say thank you in advance for turning me on to it.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Waterson
    April 26, 2013 at 3:36 am

    MMM asparagus and parm!? Hello! Get in ma belly 🙂

  • Reply
    Red Star to Lone Star
    April 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Nice! I haven’t seen any new asparagus in stores yet. But I AM the proud owner of a huge wedge of Parmigiano, a present from Italy. That needs to be used!

  • Reply
    Valentina Rice
    April 25, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Can’t wait to try! Can see that this would go perfectly with any simple grilled meat or fish! Thank you!

  • Reply
    ahu
    April 25, 2013 at 2:14 am

    i never met a gratin i didn’t like but this is particularly beautiful.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    April 25, 2013 at 12:24 am

    5 stars
    What a beautiful spring dish!

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