Filo-Wrapped Asparagus & Prosciutto

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Preparation info

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Seventeenth-century artist and food-writer Giacomo Castelvetro, whose beautiful and extraordinary fruit and vegetable paintings would not look remotely anachronistic in the glossiest contemporary food magazine, was appalled on visiting this country in 1614 to find that asparagus was both expensive and a rarity in London’s markets. If he time-travelled to see us today he would be a little comforted by its year-round availability, thanks to the miracle of jumbo-jet supply, but might still wonder at how few people still take advantage of its joys.

As recently as 20 years ago, the only asparagus most people ever saw at a party came out of a tin. This was pre-cooked to an odd and slippery consistency and smelt and tasted peculiar. Do not laugh, it is true, and if you doubt it, tinned asparagus is still sold side by side with fresh in every supermarket. In those distant days when we thought tinned was the real thing, it invariably came wrapped in thinly sliced and heavily buttered brown bread.

Fortunately a few culinary leagues have been marched since then and with the new-found availability of decent asparagus we can enjoy it in as many different ways as our imagination suggests. During the first month of its early summer season, to give it more than the simplest treatment would be a sacrilege.

The asparagus to use here is the fat Californian type that is available all year round, and two spears per person are sufficient for a first course. This is a lovely combination of textures and flavours, the crispy garlic pastry contrasting with the rich salty Parma ham and the fresh clean finish of the asparagus.


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 55 g/2 oz butter
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 55 g/2 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 8 sheets of filo pastry
  • 8 thin slices of Parma ham
  • 1 lemon, to serve



Crush and finely chop the garlic and put with the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Remove after 10 minutes and leave for a further 10 minutes off the heat to allow the flavour to infuse. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. (You are going to use this butter to brush the filo and if you leave the garlic in it will burn and go bitter on the outside of the pastry when exposed to the high heat at which it is cooked.)

Peel and trim the bases of the asparagus stalks. Grate the Parmesan.


Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas8.

Working one sheet at a time and keeping the sheets not in use under a damp tea towel, spread out each sheet of filo, brush with the flavoured butter and double over. Sprinkle with Parmesan and pepper but no salt (remember that the ham is salty).

Lay a slice of the ham on top, then place an asparagus spear across and roll up. Brush the roll with more butter, then cut it into 5 cm/2 in lengths and put on a non-stick baking tray. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Bake for 10 minutes until nicely golden.


Serve hot or at room temperature, with a lemon quarter on the side.

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