This broccoli pesto pasta is one of the first recipes I ever developed.
Although as a kid I was always at my mom’s side in the kitchen, it wasn’t until I discovered the Food Network when I was around 12 that I got the urge to try cooking on my own. I started out basic – albeit pretty creative. I distinctly remember a warm white rice salad with chopped up tomatoes and chicken nuggets. It was… interesting.
But I kept experimenting, and after a few years and a plethora of other questionable creations, my food went from, “I think this is edible…” to, “This is actually pretty good!” (Bless my family for dutifully eating my experiments night after night.)
Broccoli pesto pasta was one of those early creations and was likely inspired by something I saw on TV. My family loved it and it became a staple in our house. But as I got older and eventually moved out, the recipe sorta faded away from my repertoire. Until recently, that is, when my mom casually mentioned on the phone she was making the broccoli pesto pasta for dinner. I decided to make it too, and it was just as good as I remembered.
How to Make Broccoli Pesto
As far as I’m concerned, you can make pesto out of anything green, and broccoli is no exception. This vegan broccoli pesto starts by quickly blanching the broccoli. It’s important to keep an eye on it and not overcook the broccoli, since you want it to stay bright green and a bit crunchy. Then the broccoli gets pureed in a food processor with a handful of flavorings and olive oil.
Instead of Parmesan cheese, which is traditionally found in pesto, I use miso to add that savory cheesy flavor to this sauce.
What is Shiitake ‘Bacon’
Shiitake ‘bacon’ is an addictively delicious garnish that works as a topping on nearly any savory dish (much like regular bacon, in fact). It’s meaty, intensely savory, and has a crunchy-chewy texture (again, like regular bacon). The best part? It’s very simple to make. You thinly slice shiitake mushrooms, toss them with salt and oil, and roast until browned.
While I wish I could take credit for this brilliant invention, it’s actually a trick I picked up while working at NYC’s Natural Gourmet Institute.
This broccoli pesto pasta is hearty and comforting, and a delicious way to use up a head of broccoli. It’s the perfect weeknight pasta!
This vegan broccoli pesto pasta recipe is a delicious way to get more vegetables into your diet and perfect for weeknights.
For the Pasta and Shiitake Bacon:
- Fine sea salt
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms (about 8 medium mushrooms), stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound orecchiette (or other short-cut pasta like farfalle or fusilli)
- One 14-ounce can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
For the Broccoli Pesto:
- Fine sea salt
- 1 small head of broccoli, stemmed and cut into florets (about 4 cups)
- 1 packed cup basil leaves, (about ½ bunch)
- ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds* (you may also use pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds)
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 heaping tablespoon miso
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil for the pasta, and simultaneously bring a bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the broccoli.
- Meanwhile, make the Shiitake Bacon: Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet (if your baking sheet is not non-stick, use parchment paper), drizzle with the oil and ¼ teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer and roast until browned and crispy, 20 to 25 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven and set aside; the ‘bacon’ will crisp up as it cools.
- Make the Pesto: Cook the broccoli in the medium pot of water for 2 minutes, just until it turns bright green. Drain and run it under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until the broccoli is broken down. Add the basil, pumpkin seeds, garlic, miso, black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt and pulse until everything is broken down. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil and lemon juice, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Cook the pasta in the large pot of boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot and add the pesto, beans, most of the shiitake bacon (save a bit for garnishing), and the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir to combine, taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve immediately.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
- Calories: 438
- Fiber: 5.7 g
- Protein: 13.3 g
Keywords: pasta, broccoli, pesto, shiitake bacon, vegan