1. Fill your sauce pan or skillet with about 6 cups of water. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt and set on a burner on your stove over high heat. Holding one end of the asparagus in each of your hands, bend it until it naturally snaps in two. Discard the tough ends. Alternatively, you can slice off the bottom third and taste the stalks, continuing to cut into the main stalk until it isn't fibrous any more. Rinse the asparagus under cold running water and drain in a colander or on a clean tea towel. If you aren't serving whole stalks, cut the asparagus into pieces. One- to two-inch pieces are good for most recipes. Be sure to keep the stalk pieces and tips separate.
2. When the water has reached a full boil, plunge the stalks into the pot and cover. Start your timer. After 2 1/2 minutes, remove the cover and add the tips. Cook another minute and check for doneness. The asparagus will continue to cook a little bit when removed from the water, so they should be a little less cooked than you want them to be. Whole stalks may need another 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Remove from water using perforated spoon or tongs, or by dumping the water into the colander in the sink. Immediately place the asparagus in a bowl and toss with a small glug of olive oil. Toss and spread out to cool.