Sparasi e ovi is a quintessentially Venetian springtime ritual, often consumed around Easter time. The ritual seems to be originating from the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the Vicenza province of Veneto, where the time-honoured tradition of growing white asparagus has in time reached peaks of perfection.
Many works of art witness the presence of white asparagus in the area: a famous painting by the Venetian artist Giovanbattista Piazzetta called La Cena di Emmaus, for example, portraits a dish of white asparagus as part of the Last Supper, prepared following the local tradition.
A classic sparasi e ovi feast is nothing fancy. It basically entails dipping the steamed white asparagus in a condiment made with oil, salt, pepper and vinegar, in which the egg has been previously crumbled (mimosa-style). The result is not just delicious, but joyfully messy, too. It’s a good way to kick off a springtime meal, as well as a lovely idea for a seasonal picnic.
Sparasi e Ovi (White Asparagus & Eggs)
This isn’t as much a recipe as a series of suggestions. I leave quantities with you: adjust them based on your liking, appetite and the number of people sitting at your table.
Extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar
Fine grain sea salt
Peel and trim the asparagus. Then, tie them six by six and cook them in plenty of salted water (starting from cold), with the tips out of the water so that they only gently steam rather than boil. They should cook for 10-15 minutes from when the water starts to boil – check for doneness by poking them with a toothpick. Drain and arrange on a platter.
Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs (cook them for about 8 minutes from when the water boils). Cool them under cold running water, then peel and halve them. Arrange them around the asparagus.
To serve, place oil, vinegar and salt on the table alongside the asparagus and eggs. Everybody should help themselves to all of these. Then, they should mash the seasoned eggs with the back of a fork to form a chunky cream, and use it as a dip for the asparagus.