Broccoli Pesto Pasta

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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Broccoli Pesto Pasta


  • 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
Total Time: 20 Minutes
Servings: 6
Kosher Key: Dairy or Pareve
  • 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 

Comments (45)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I’ve never thought about adding broccoli to a pesto recipe, but that’s a wonderful idea! I wonder if “marinating” the cooked broccoli in the pesto before tossing it all together would increase the flavor?

  2. I make a vegan pesto with basil, garlic, olive oil, garlic, salt, water and nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast magically tastes like cheese.

  3. I found your recipe via Yours was the first I tried. I like the way that you show the steps with photos.

    I tried your recipe yesterday. I didn’t have enough broccoli on hand, so I added Romanesque cauliflower. I also browned some pine nuts and added it to your recipe. My family loved it!

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Yours is the best of all. The photo illustrations help immensely. You really should try the nutritional yeast. It’s cheese flavor is wonderful on popcorn. Thanks for your recipes.

  5. I’d really like to try this recipe, but my husband (who loves dairy stuff like milk, ice cream, etc.) recoils whenever he’s near cheese or anything that looks, smells, or resembles cheese. So I’m always looking for a pesto that does not substitute soy equivalents of cheese or nutritional yeast. Anyone have a suggestion for a pesto without cheese or cheese-like substitutes?

  6. This pasta looks good. I am interested in what type of gluten free pasta you are suggesting. I tried corn pasta but it is very dry. The pictures look like it is wheat pasta. I try to avoid wheat to maintain my weight.

    1. Hi Sandi, I am a fan of Tinkyada. There are a few good brown rice pastas out there, but you often run into a problem with the pasta pieces sticking to each other while cooking, so it’s important to stir continuously with a large wooden fork or pasta “spork” while the pasta is cooking to keep pieces separated.

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Super excited to try this tonight! Looks yummy! Thank you for the idea. Never would have thought of broccoli.

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I just made this tonight and it was so amazing I had to leave a comment! I just used the reg. pesto and it was completely ridiculously yummy. Also this makes a ton, easily can serve 8 people instead of 6. Thanks so much for this!

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Yes, Tori, I know what you mean about the shorter days, the chill and the memories of last year. And yes, we are friends! We are all connected in more ways than just for our collective love of cooking and things Jewish! Since I’ve moved to the Southbay area of LA proper, things are exploding in a great way! My life has become rich and full and social media like FB has connected me to many, many new friends and interests. Your posts are a welcome shining light when I see them in my news feed, with your smiling face and open heart which you allow us to see and share! So comfort food like this pasta is just what we needed right now. Just wanted to share that TJ’s has Basil plants outside most of the time for your pesto, and I’ve been using their Brown Rice pasta now for years since going gluten-free. I just found out I have Hashimoto’s and they recommend a g-f and a Paleo diet! So may have to give up all grains as well.
    Congratulations on your wonderful blog and all your kindness to the minions of fans of which I am a very grateful one! ((HUGS))!

    1. Thank you so much for writing Sharon. I hope that the gluten free section of my site will be helpful to you as you navigate this new diagnosis. Hugs back!

  10. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Made this tonight and, as with ALL the recipes I get from you, it was fantastic! Only change was I roasted the broccoli (evoo/salt/pepper) as we all like it better that way. Such a great, quick, healthy meal!

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