I like pancetta. Not because its cool to like Italian things, or for some deep-seated hatred of all things produced by lovely American factories. I like it because its rolled up, its cured in salt and its not smoked. It has a really nice clean pork flavor. Isn't that what its all about, nice pork flavor? For a vegetarian version, you can just eliminate it. But you won't be getting any street cred among the gourmets for using an elite Italian meat product. Additionally, all you will have is slow-cooked asparagus, something thats better than a sharp stick in the eye, but not quite the same.
- Fry the pancetta in the olive oil over medium heat, until its lightly browned and slightly crispy. Drain it on a paper towel. leave the fat behind in the frying pan.
- Set the skillet back over medium heat and cook the garlic for 30 seconds. Take care not to burn or brown it. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain it on the paper towel with the pancetta.
- Add enough olive oil to the pan to bring the fat up to 1 Tbs. Lower the heat to medium, melt the butter, add the asparagus, and season it with the salt and pepper.
- Saute the asparagus until the spears are light brown and they have achieved the level of tenderness you desire, this should take about 15 minutes. I like mine a little crispy and toothsome.
- Plate the spears, and scatter the panceta and garlic over them, dress with lemon juice