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Easy Upside Down Sheet-Pan Asparagus Tart Recipe

Why It Works

  • Brushing the puff pastry with egg enhances browning, which improves flavor in the finished crust. 
  • Choosing thin asparagus means the stalks don’t need to be par-cooked before assembling the tart. 
  • Cooking the asparagus underneath the pastry traps steam, resulting in perfectly tender and juicy spears.  

Check out my tagline on the homepage of Serious Eats, and you’ll know that I love all vegetables. But what veggie tops my list at any given time has a lot to do with what’s in season in the growing areas near New York City, where I live. And in the spring, I’m all about asparagus. I love it in simple preparations, such as grilled or sautéed and topped with chili crisp, just barely steamed in the microwave and doused with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and roasted in plenty of olive oil so it gets crispy and brown, then sprinkled with flaky sea salt. But right now, my favorite way to eat asparagus is in this beautiful tart created by seasoned recipe developer Melissa Gray.

Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

Eye-catching vegetable tarts are a common sight on social media, but just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s delicious. When the Serious Eats team asked Melissa to develop this recipe, we had a very specific requirement: Beautiful is great, but this needs to be good enough to eat with our mouths, not just our eyes. Too often these types of vegetable tart lack cohesion, fall apart easily, or quickly grow soggy.

Melissa’s result is this gorgeous tart with perfectly cooked, glossy asparagus, fragrant thyme, creamy goat cheese, and bright lemon zest, all topped with buttery, flaky store-bought puff pastry and baked on a single pan, then flipped over to slice and serve.

Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

The whole thing comes together in less than an hour, and that’s counting unattended baking time and making the pretty chevron pattern with the asparagus—but really, this tart tastes just as good if you simply line the asparagus up in a single layer on the pan, so if you can’t be bothered with chevroning, don’t let that stop you from making this tart.

The tart is simple enough to make for a weeknight, but it would also make a lovely dish for entertaining, such as for a spring holiday like Easter or Mother’s Day. Just add a salad on the side and crack open a bottle of white wine—bubbles optional. Read on for details on the specific steps Melissa took to make this tart a winner on all fronts and for the full recipe. 

5 Tips for Nailing This Springy Asparagus Tart

  1. Cook upside down. There’s no need to blanch the asparagus ahead of time in this recipe since the pastry acts like a lid and steams the asparagus as the pastry crisps. This inverted cooking method also ensures both that the asparagus doesn’t dry out and shrivel up in the oven’s heat as it cooks, and that the puff pastry has a chance to crisp well on the bottom and not become soggy from asparagus juices.
  2. Choose thin asparagus. We love the flavor of fat asparagus when steamed or grilled, but skinny asparagus are crucial to ensure quick and even cooking of this tart without any par-cooking step. It’s also easier to arrange thin asparagus in a chevron pattern on the tart. For this recipe, you’ll cut each stalk into three-inch pieces to create the chevron design. Don’t toss any leftover pieces when you cut the asparagus—save them to use to fill in gaps. 
  3. Draw an outline for your tart. Before assembling the tart, draw an outline for it on parchment paper with a nontoxic marker or a pencil, then flip the parchment over so the ink side faces the sheet pan. This visual guide will help you lay out the ingredients to create a nice square tart. 
  4. Use cheese “glue” and press down to make sure the tart holds together. “You see a lot of these recipes on the internet, but oftentimes the upside down items just fall off during the flip,” Melissa explains. “Here we’ve done two things to try and help this. First, by placing the cheese in between the asparagus and the pastry we put an edible glue of sorts, as the cheese softens and adheres the asparagus and pastry together. Second, we press the pastry on top of the asparagus. A lot of viral recipes simply place the ingredients, but you lose the point of contact with the upside down item and as the pastry bakes you’ll never be able to get that back.” 
  5. Don’t forget to defrost your puff pastry. Store-bought puff pastry is one of our favorite convenience products, and it’s pretty easy to work with, as long as you remember to defrost it. It typically takes just a few hours to defrost in the fridge, but to be on the safe side, we recommend transferring it from the freezer to the fridge the night before you want to make the tart. We love the buttery flavor of Dufour, but other brands, such as readily available Pepperidge Farm, also work well. For this recipe, you’ll need to gently roll the pastry out on a floured surface, then place it over the other ingredients and press to adhere before popping it in the oven. When it comes out of the oven, you’ll flip the whole thing over so the puff pastry forms the crust. 

Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

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