Some type of pasta pops up pretty regularly in our meal rotation. It’s simple enough to make on a weeknight, and everyone likes it. While cream and cheese laden pastas certainly have a special place in my heart, they’re not exactly the healthiest meals to have on a regular basis. So I typically look for lighter pastas for us to enjoy, and this one has become one of our favorites. I’ve only ever made basil pesto, so the thought of turning broccoli into a pesto intrigued me. Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables, but we rarely eat it as part of a main course. This recipe puts broccoli at the forefront of the meal, and I kind of love that.
When we made this pasta the first time, I sent Annie a video of Clara eating it and enthusiastically nodding when I asked her if she liked it. That pretty much sums up our feelings about this pasta. The broccoli is cooked until just tender and then pureed with a bit of cream or Greek yogurt. You cook the pasta in the same pot you used to cook the broccoli, which obviously makes cleanup a breeze. Easy peasy and so delicious. This recipe makes a ton of pasta, so next time I make it I’m going to cook half the pasta and freeze the remaining pesto.
If you don't want the full 8 servings of pasta, I would still make the full amount of pesto. Freeze what's left, and all you have to do next time is thaw the pesto and boil the pasta.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, chop the broccoli crowns into florets. Peel the tough outer skins of the broccoli stems using a vegetable peeler, then chop the stems into ½-inch discs. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until fork-tender. Alternately, you can steam the broccoli in a steam basket over the boiling water. Use a skimmer or strainer to remove the broccoli from the pot, leaving the water.
Maintain the water at a boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta well. Set aside.
Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil and heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes. Return the broccoli to the pot and cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Taste and season with pepper as desired.
Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor or blender. Pulse, scraping down as needed, until the mixture is finely chopped. Add the cream or yogurt and process until smooth, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time to reach your desired consistency. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.