I’ve always felt like my readers are my friends. We’re all on this crazy fun cooking adventure together. Your comments make me laugh and think. And while it might seem strange be attached to people I’ve never really met, I feel attached to you. So you’ll forgive me, friends, if I take a minute to “kvetch.” I’m not really a kvetcher, persay… in fact, most of the time I have a pretty sunny disposition. But today I need to vent a little with my friends.
It’s been “chilly” here in Southern California this week… not Fargo cold, but dreary and kind of miserable. I enjoy overcast weather, and I know it could be so much worse, but this strange, wet pattern has overstayed its welcome. Days are shorter and darker. I’m also fighting a cold. Then there’s the exhaustion of wrapping up a busy Hanukkah holiday with multiple media appearances and interviews. And of course, eclipsing all of this, the recent tragedy in Connecticut weighs heavily on all of our hearts. Who can cook with so much suffering in the world? I feel grateful for everything in my life. At the same time, I have to admit, my mood is low. While normally I’d be baking up a cheerful storm for the holiday season, instead I feel like staying in bed all day, snuggled with my husband and stepdaughter watching movies. Anybody else out there feeling the same way?
This kind of mood calls for easy, yummy comfort food. I’m talking about something that takes less than twenty minutes to prepare… carbohydrates that fill your tummy, giving you energy and healing your spirit. I’m craving comfort food, but I also want something healthy… something with vitamins to nourish and replenish the body. A few days ago, I threw together a pasta dish that works on all of these levels. It’s healthy, carby, and comforting. It’s Broccoli Pesto Pasta. No cream, no butter… just pesto and good old fashioned Mediterranean olive oil. Steamed broccoli adds a healthy boost, and a sprinkle of parmesan really brings together the flavors (if you’re vegetarian, use a vegetarian or vegan parmesan). You can make homemade pesto, if you want– I have a recipe for traditional dairy pesto with cheese, and a dairy-free version, too. Fresh basil, which you’ll need to make homemade pesto, can be tough to find during the winter. The Trader Joe’s in my neighborhood seems to have it year round. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own pesto, a jar from the grocery store will work just as well. I prefer this pasta with traditional cheese pesto, but you can also make it vegan by using a dairy-free pesto. If keeping the pasta dairy-free, you may need extra salt or a sprinkle of vegan parmesan to enhance the flavor. You can also make it gluten free by using a GF pasta– double check your pesto to make sure it’s certified GF, too.
Make it. Eat it. Be happy. Or feel free to kvetch a little. Don’t worry, you’re among friends.
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- 1 lb spaghetti, vermicelli, capellini, or angel hair pasta (whole wheat or gluten free pasta works great)
- 1 1/2 lbs broccoli heads, cut from stalks into small florets (about 1 lb florets)
- 3/4 cup pesto (with cheese or dairy-free)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Grated parmesan, pecorino, or vegan parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook to desired tenderness, stirring frequently. See pasta package for instructions – cooking time will depend on the type of pasta you choose.
- While pasta is cooking, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add broccoli florets to the pan and cover tightly with a lid.
- Let the broccoli steam for 2-5 minutes, or until tender and bright green.
- Remove from heat and drain in a colander.
- When the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water in a separate bowl, then drain the pasta in a colander.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine pesto, olive oil, and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Add additional pasta water to make the sauce more liquid, if desired. Season with salt to taste (if using dairy-free pesto, you may need more salt for flavor).
- Add the steamed broccoli to the pasta along with the pesto sauce. Toss the pasta and vegetables gently with the sauce to coat. Salt again to taste, if desired.
- Serve pasta topped with grated parmesan, pecorino, or vegan parmesan cheese. If you're vegetarian, be sure to choose parmesan with a vegetarian rennet. You can also sprinkle on a few red pepper flakes for a touch of spice, if desired.
Other Great Recipe Ideas
Simply Recipes: Walnut Parsley Pesto
Kalyn’s Kitchen: Sauteed Broccoli with Garlic, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan
A Spicy Perspective: Moroccan Grilled Lamb Chops with Tahini Mint Pesto
Steamy Kitchen: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Pistachio Pesto
Domestic Fits: Broccomole: Broccoli Guacamole