pasta with broccoli pesto

by Stacy

The vilification of broccoli is a pet peeve of mine. For some reason people assume that broccoli is universally disliked. Why is that? I liked broccoli as a kid — not that my tastes have ever been normal, but that’s not the point.

It reminds me of when parents would bring their sons into the menswear store where I worked. They’d tell the boys to put on the “monkey suit” and have them flail their arms in a manner not recommended in formal wear, inform the child that it’s not meant to comfortable, and then act shocked when their kid doesn’t want to put it on again.

Why spend ten minutes convincing someone they won’t like something then act surprised when they listen to you? It’s always confused me.

vegan broccoli walnut pesto

My husband is not a broccoli fan, but he is a fan of semantics. (He is also a fan of broccoli cheddar soup on occasion.) I half-joke that he is my training for when we have kids to feed.

Instead of asking if he wanted to eat broccoli (answer: no), I asked if he wanted pesto (answer: yes!). Don’t get me started on how I have to describe potato salad. Did anyone else marry someone so contrary?

vegan broccoli walnut pesto

Instead of stupid-expensive pine nuts, walnuts add heft and healthy fat. In lieu of cheese, a touch of miso adds salty umami depth. Instead of pouring in olive oil, the secret ingredient for creaminess is pasta water. By adding the salted, starchy water from the pasta pan, it helps you blend the pesto without making it watery. It’s not unlike magic.

The pesto makes great leftovers; toss with hot pasta for a quick lunch. Rotini or fusilli pastas are great for trapping the pesto in their spirals, but any shape will do. For dinner tonight I had some with ear-shaped orecchiette (oh-reh-kee-et-tay) because it’s fun to say.

vegan broccoli walnut pesto

No miso? No problem. Non-vegans and the dairy-tolerant could still add Parmesan cheese, or even feta. A sprinkle of nutritional yeast might be nice, too. Leave out the miso and it’s soy-free.

Any recipe that gets my husband to eat broccoli is a good one to have in my arsenal, and even though I do like broccoli, I like having different ways to enjoy it. The raw garlic is punchy, the lemon gives the pesto some brightness, and the walnuts ground the mix. Go eat some green stuff!

Do you like broccoli? The first way I got my husband to eat broccoli was by roasting it.

print recipe
Vegan Broccoli Walnut Pesto
A dairy-free pesto that even broccoli-haters will eat. The raw garlic is a bit sharp, so use roasted garlic if you prefer a more mellow flavor.
  • 12 ounces pasta
  • 1 pound (about 4 cups florets) broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons, divided salt
  • 1/3 cup (about 2 ounces) walnut halves or pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste (optional)
1.) Chop broccoli into florets; slice thick stems. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Blanch broccoli 2-3 minutes, 2.) Bring the same pot of water back to a boil, or fill a new one with water, boil, and add the other tablespoon of salt. Add pasta and cook according to instructions on package. Reserve one cup of pasta water when draining.3.) Combine walnuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice in a food processor. Pulse until fairly uniform. Add olive oil and miso.4.) Add broccoli to food processor about 1/2 cup at a time, processing until smooth. Add pasta water as necessary.5.) Toss with hot pasta and serve. Top with fresh parsley, walnut pieces, salt and pepper if desired.

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings (3 cups)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rose May 22, 2011 at 1:22 am

I LOVE broccoli! I use to hate it until a few years ago when my fiance’s grandmother made it with a couple of garlic cloves and olive oil boiled in wth the broccoli and ever since its one of my favourite veggies. Have you tried roast broccoli? yum!
The pesto sounds great, i have made a similar type of dish once and it was wonderful. I will have to try the walnuts in with pasta some time.

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Stacy May 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

Yep, roasted is the first way I got the hubby to eat broccoli!


katya May 22, 2011 at 10:02 am

i love broccoli :) always have. I read aloud the part about Anderson being your practice for when you have kids… i thought that was hilarious.


Stacy May 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hehehe. You should see his face when I tell him he has to try beets.


Jill May 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm

This sounds absolutely fabulous! I’m a broccoli lover and so is my husband, and this looks like a great new way to eat it. It will be quite a while before I can make basil pesto from my garden, so I’m happy to have another pesto recipe to try.
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Stacy May 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Thanks, Jill! Hope you enjoy it. =)


Kim May 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Want to know something sad? My husband and I GREW broccoli this spring. And we only got around to eating a couple of heads. We were so busy and never got around to harvesting the rest before they flowered. But now I know broccoli florets bloom into beautiful golden yellow things. :-)

We’re both broccoli lovers; it’s on rotation this week!

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Stacy May 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I think it’s awesome that you grew it at all! Chalk it up to a life lesson, and now you know for next time. ๐Ÿ˜€


Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum May 23, 2011 at 4:26 am

This looks great! I have made something similar but never thought of it as pesto… Just trying to lighten up my pasta and add more veggies! I love your addition of walnuts. Mmmm!


Stacy May 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

“Add more veggies” is a pretty consistent theme around these parts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The first time I made this my food processor lid broke and I minced the broccoli with a knife. Sadly, it was too dark for photos by the time I was done.


susan from food blogga May 25, 2011 at 7:12 am

I couldn’t agree with you more, Stacy. It also drives me bonkers when parents try bribe their kids to eat the healthy foods if they want dessert. This is a great recipe, and I never would have thought to add miso. That’s genius!
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Stacy May 27, 2011 at 9:28 am

Glad I’m not the only one who goes crazy about it! =)


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