Look no further than your freezer for a quick and healthy dinner featuring Broccoli Pesto. Frozen broccoli brings both substance and nutrition to classic pesto sauce. It’s ready in about 20 minutes, and a low key but delicious way to add one more vegetable to your meal.
When you’re short on both time and brainpower, pasta is generally the answer to the question “What’s for dinner?”. When your red sauce stash runs dry or you’re craving a fresher take, broccoli pesto is here.
Frozen broccoli couldn’t be more convenient. Here it brings both substance and flavor to this classic Italian sauce, not to mention a punch of extra nutrition. Broccoli pesto pasta is a very quick meal that comes together in under 30 minutes. And for picky eaters, it’s a great way to present a familiar food in a new way.
How to Make Broccoli Pesto
Broccoli pesto relies on classic staples like pine nuts, basil, garlic, and parmesan blended with frozen broccoli for a bright and hearty sauce that can be enjoyed any time of year. It’s a low key way to add one more healthy dose of vegetables to your meal without (too much) extra work. Toss it with a short, ridged pasta that will grab onto the sauce.
- Defrost 6 ounces (about 2 cups) frozen broccoli – place the florets into a mesh strainer and run under cool water for a few minutes.
- Shake the broccoli to release as much moisture as possible – if it’s too wet, the pesto will be watery.
- Toast pine nuts until golden brown (this only takes a few minutes)
- Combine the broccoli with the toasted pine nuts, a clove of garlic, fresh basil, and finely grated parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse the ingredients until they’re finely minced; scrape down the sides once or twice to make sure you don’t miss any bigger bits.
- Flip the motor on the food processor to continuous and pour extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto comes together. Use a little less oil for a chunkier sauce, a little more for a thinner sauce. It all depends on preference.
- Season the pesto with salt and pepper, then taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary until you want to eat the pesto straight off the spoon!
What’s the Best Pasta for Pesto?
A short, ridged pasta will hold pesto better than thin, smooth pasta shapes. We love shells, penne, rigatoni, and fusilli. Nutty whole wheat pasta is especially appetizing with pesto sauce.
Can I Use Pre-grated Parmesan Cheese?
I always prefer to grate my own parmesan, both for quality and flavor. You can’t beat the quality of a fresh block of parmesan cheese, plus grating with a microplane will yield light pillows of cheese that melt into the pesto for evenly distributed flavor and texture.
Tips for Making This Recipe Perfectly
- Be sure to thoroughly defrost then dry the frozen broccoli; too much residual moisture will make the pesto watery.
- Always cook pasta in heavily salted water (it should taste like the sea!) – at least 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of pasta. This infuses the pasta with flavor from the inside out.
- Reserve a bit of pasta water for tossing with the finished pasta – it adds just a bit of creaminess to the finished dish.
- A little cheese goes a long way, and quality matters – use a fresh block of high quality parmesan cheese.
- Grate the parmesan as finely as possible so it easily blends into the pesto – I use a microplane for best results.
More Healthy Pasta Recipes
- Creamy Pasta Sauce with Roasted Vegetables
- Mushroom Bolognese
- Zucchini and Corn Pasta
- Spinach Pesto Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower
- Kale Mushroom Pasta
Did you make this Broccoli Pesto with Whole Wheat Pasta Shells? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- Food Processor
- Mesh Strainer
- 1 lb short pasta
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 6 oz frozen broccoli, about 2 cups
- ¼ c pine nuts
- 1 c loosely packed basil leaves
- ½ oz parmesan cheese, finely grated, about ½ cup
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- ½ c extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- Heat a large pot of water until boiling, then season with kosher salt. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
- Place frozen broccoli into a fine mesh strainer and defrost until cool running water until soft. Shake to release moisture.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat; add the pine nuts. Stir the nuts continuously for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and very fragrant.
- Combine the defrosted broccoli, pine nuts, basil, parmesan cheese, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are pulverized (20-30 pulses), scraping the sides down once halfway through.
- Flip the motor to continuous and pour the olive oil through the feed tube; continue blending until the pesto comes together, scraping the sides down once. Use more oil for a thinner sauce, up to ⅔ cup. Season with salt and pepper, process once more, then taste for seasoning. Adjust with salt and pepper as needed until the flavor sings.
- Add the pesto to the cooked pasta, along with ½ c of pasta water. Toss until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. Serve immediately.
- Any short, ridged pasta shape will work for this recipe, and whole wheat is a particularly great pairing with nutty pesto sauce.
- Grate the parmesan with a microplane for easy blending into the pesto sauce.
- How to store leftovers: store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave, adding 1 tablespoon of water per serving to help loosen the sauce.
- How to freeze the pesto: store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge; toss with hot cooked pasta, and be sure to reserve and add pasta water.
[…] Here, a nutty, rich cream sauce tames the strongest notes in classic basil pesto and instantly makes it kid friendly. And if you want to go even milder, try this broccoli pesto! […]