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When you want a dressed up side, Grilled Asparagus with Anchovy Breadcrumbs ticks all the boxes. Perfectly grilled and topped with a lemony, garlicky, crunchy crumb topping, your tastebuds will sing!
Anchovy Breadcrumbs over Grilled Asparagus
I had an hour to myself recently and decided to watch a couple episodes of Beat Bobby Flay. It’s always a good source of inspiration and entertaining to watch his friends talk smack.
During one particular showdown (Season 8, Episode 3), Bobby makes anchovy breadcrumbs to top his seafood risotto, and I immediately opened my Notes app and add this idea to my running list. It’s not like I haven’t heard of anchovy breadcrumbs before, but I’ve never made them and they sound super good in the moment.
Anchovies are no joke when it comes to adding umami to a dish. They are pungent, little salt bombs and a bit goes a long way. I always have a jar on hand (preferable over a tin), because it stores easily in the fridge until I’ve had a chance to use up all those tiny fillets.
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How to Make Anchovy Breadcrumbs
This is a great way to use up day old bread or the heels from your sandwich loaf. Tear the bread into smaller chunks and whiz it up in the food processor until you achieve a coarse crumb.
I used leftover sourdough for my breadcrumbs. The crusty parts didn’t process as well (I think I may need a new blade), but I decided to leave them in and am really glad I did! I honestly could not help myself from stealing the bigger crumbs right off the asparagus platter. Delicious!
Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies to the oil and stir until they begin to melt into the oil. This won’t take long, a minute or so. Next, add the garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low; stir for 30 seconds.
Now it’s time to add the breadcrumbs. Stir to combine them well with the oil, anchovies and garlic. Continue toasting for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn. They’ll turn a nice golden brown and crisp up. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the parsley and lemon zest. Season with fresh cracked black pepper and a little kosher salt, if needed.
Grilled Fresh Asparagus is Amazing
I’m a huge fan of asparagus cooked any which way…except mushy. But, grilled is definitely my favorite. It’s so unfussy — a few spritzes of olive oil spray and a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper, and they’re ready for the grill.
Cooking times will depend on the size of your asparagus — 7 to 9 minutes for thin; 10-12 minutes for thick. We grill ours over a medium-high flame, but grill temperatures will vary (the internal temp on our closed grill will range anywhere from 425° to 500°F). Keep an eye on your veggies so they don’t overcook. I think asparagus is best when it holds its structure and still has a tiny snap to it.
Once your asparagus is just right, arrange the spears on a platter and tumble the breadcrumbs over the top. You could also drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil over the whole dish.
Helpful Tips + Substitutions
Plain, unseasoned Panko would work well, just watch that they don’t burn.
Wellll, no. You can omit them and still have pretty darn good lemony, garlicky breadcrumbs. They may require a bit more seasoning.
Sure! A couple tablespoons of grated parmesan or romano would be lovely (add cheese at the end, off the heat). You likely won’t need ANY additional salt then. Or, if your herb garden is producing nicely, add or substitute other fresh herbs. If you want some heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne with the garlic.
Prep the asparagus the same way, then roast it on a sheet pan in a 425°F oven for 9 to 15 minutes depending on thickness.
YES! Pasta is the classic vehicle, but add them to anything that usually calls for breadcrumbs as a garnish.
Try These Other Yummy Side Dishes
Grilled Asparagus with Anchovy Breadcrumbs
- Food Processor
- 3 oz day old bread torn into small pieces
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 anchovy fillets finely minced
- 1 clove garlic large, finely minced
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley finely minced
- kosher salt + fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb) tough ends trimmed off
- olive oil cooking spray or olive oil to drizzle
- Place torn bread pieces into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to make coarse breadcrumbs. It's okay to have some larger chunks. You should end up with about 1½ cups of breadcrumbs.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add anchovies and stir until fillets melt into the oil, about 1 minute.
- Add garlic and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add breadcrumbs and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning and promote even browning. The crumbs will toast to a golden brown and get crispy.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, and add the lemon zest and parsley, stir to combine. Set aside.
- Lightly coat your asparagus spears with a few spritzes of cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat, 7 to 9 minutes for thin asparagus / 10-12 minutes for thicker asparagus.
- Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
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