broccoli pesto spaghetti

We love broccoli.  This week I bought 3 bunches (for $3 – a very economical vegetable). It appears in a few different meals planned for the week and the kids love it demand it in their lunches with humus or dip. Yes, its a sad day when we are out of broccoli — and that day is usually Thursday night when I’m packing lunches for school. So this week, I thought I would stock up and buy extra. Then I made this  meal and sorta used my “extra.”  Don’t tell the kids. I’ll just throw some carrots in their lunches instead and suffer the wrath Friday evening, with a glass of wine in hand and it will all be fine.

(Do I need to mention Dana Carvey?)

For my broccoli lovers, this quick supper uses 1 bunch or about 2 full heads of broccoli. You can even use the stalk if you peel the tough outer layers first and remove the dried up ends.  Or you could use frozen broccoli if you find that more convenient.  It still needs to be cooked according to package directions, but it may save you some chopping.

A couple of prep tips:

  • Put two pots of water on, both slightly salted, one large pot for the pasta and one medium-sized for the broccoli. For the broccoli I only put an inch or two in the pot – it’s a lazy way to let them kinda boil, kinda steam.
  • Broccoli can be cleaned, chopped, cooked and made into pesto while the pasta cooks. It’s fairly quick, you will have time.
  • Save some of the pasta water for thinning the pesto as needed (I always forget to do this before I drain the noodles). I used a couple of tablespoons when I tossed the pesto with the noodles.
  • I used 1/4 cup of olive oil in this recipe, but you can use less if you want to go lower fat. I think the added oil improves the texture. You may use less or more depending on how big your broccoli stalks are and how you like your pesto.  You could try vegetable stock (or that pasta water you remembered to save) instead for a lower fat version. Start with a few tablespoons and add more if you feel it needs it.
  • Use a food processor if you have one, a blender makes the pesto far to creamy.
  • Throw in the walnuts and the Parmesan whole, I run this through the processor first, before adding anything else and pulse it a few times to finely chop. No need to chop the nuts or grate the Parm before hand.
  • If your kids are sensitive to hot pepper flakes, like mine are, leave them out and serve them on the side at the table.


Broccoli Pesto Spaghetti

Prep Time20 mins
Servings: 4 main-dish servings


  • 16 oz spaghetti
  • 2 heads fresh broccoli florets separated and stems peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes optional
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup olive oil or a combination of olive oil and vegetable stock, or reserved pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • In a small sauce pan, heat a small amount of water to a simmer and add broccoli. Cover, and allow the broccoli to simmer until it is tender crisp. Don't over cook it, you want to maintain that nice bright green colour. 3-5 minutes.
  • Add walnuts and Parmesan to the food processor and pulse several times to finely chop.
  • Add salt and garlic and pulse again until garlic is finely ground.
  • Add cooked broccoli, basil and pulse until finely ground. With processor running add olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until you achieve desired consistency. Run processor until the pesto is smooth and creamy. Stop processor as needed to scrap down the sides of the bowl and run again.
  • Add lemon juice and taste for seasoning, pulse a few times. Add salt and pepper as necessary.
  • Toss with the hot pasta, adding pasta water if needed to thin the pesto and coat the noodles to your preference.