Alex Guarnaschelli's Non-Negotiable Easter Dinner Sides

At an Easter feast, the main course tends to get most of the glory. A beautifully roasted leg of lamb or a shiny, crackling honey-glazed ham are definitely worth marveling at, but chef, author, and television star Alex Guarnaschelli believes the side dishes should have their moment, too. On her Easter table, she prefers to serve vegetable sides, telling Food & Wine, "I think there needs to be something really green that celebrates the beginning of spring. For me, that's mandatory."

The "Chopped" star insists on adding asparagus on her Easter menu, whether it's in the form of spring asparagus soup or as an appetizer, but is also a fan of other spring produce like sugar snap peas, pea flowers, pea shoots, and fresh herbs. Another of Guarnaschelli's must-haves during the holiday are deviled eggs, which she learned how to make from her mother. Her trick? She folds whipped cream into the yolk mixture to make the filling fluffier. You can also press your yolks through a mesh strainer to achieve the creamiest deviled eggs ever.

The produce available to you come Easter time depends on where you live, but you can apply Guarnaschelli's simply side dish philosophy to any fresh ingredients that look good to you. The chef even has further ideas for sweet endings to your Sunday meal.

Asparagus, artichokes, and herbs are symbols of spring

Every piece of spring produce ripens at a different time, and this can even depend on location — for instance, strawberries ripen much sooner in California than on the East Coast. Thanks to modern agriculture, you can find almost any fruit or veggie you need in a well-stocked grocery store, but if you prefer to go to the farmer's market for the freshest spring side dishes, keep the season in mind. 

You'll likely see asparagus start to pop up at farmer's markets between late March to June. It shouldn't be hard to find some early shoots come Easter, so you can try out Alex Guarnaschelli's suggestions. Artichokes, in season from March through May, are another spring delicacy that would be wonderful as part of an Easter feast. You can steam artichoke hearts and serve with a variety of dips, like melted butter and garlic aioli, or stuff the hearts with fresh herbs for a delicious carciofi alla Romana

If spring veggies tend to arrive late to your area, you can still find fresh herbs at your local grocery store. You can mince fresh chives, parsley, and tarragon and add them to your deviled egg filling; make an herbed Hollandaise sauce for pouring over green beans; or sprinkle soft herbs like parsley, basil, and marjoram over salad greens and serve with a citrusy vinaigrette. Don't feel limited this Easter, and take advantage of the fresh ingredients available to you.

Consider an Easter brunch instead of dinner

Does the idea of a huge Easter dinner stress you out? Alex Guarnaschelli's vegetable side dishes could just as easily make an appearance on an Easter brunch spread. Your pièce de résistance could be a fluffy quiche, a platter of eggs Benedict, or a scrumptious breakfast casserole. Spring vegetables are a welcome side to any of these, not to mention deviled eggs are always a good idea, whether for Easter brunch, lunch, or dinner.

More ideas include shaved asparagus and carrot salad with crunchy, toasted hazelnuts, tangy goat cheese, and crispy shallots with a lemon dressing; a pea shoot pesto made by replacing basil with the shoots and serving over cold poached salmon; or use the aforementioned herbed Hollandaise sauce on your egg dishes (incidentally, this French mother sauce also is delicious with asparagus).

As far as Easter dessert goes, Guarnaschelli keeps things simple but charming by displaying a platter of chocolate truffles, or a classic yellow cake with chocolate icing. Easter is associated with chocolate, after all. Of course, if you want to keep things "springy," a generous bowl of ripe strawberries would be delicious with little more than a sprinkle of sugar or some whipped cream. Your guests will be pleased by the fresher, unconventional dessert (and it will be easier on everyone's already-full bellies).