Broccoli Pesto

Broccoli has been one of the few kitchen garden vegetables that has produced on pretty much a familiar schedule during this cold and hot garden year.  Seeds I started indoors in early March produced sweet, green heads in late May and lots of side shoots through June. Continuing the broccoli supply, seeds I started indoors in late April began producing heads in mid-July with good side shoots forming now.  Many of the other summer kitchen garden vegetables—zucchini, peppers, eggplant, corn and beans—are three weeks or more behind their usual harvest time, so I’m definitely grateful to broccoli for filling the gap. 

My go-to preparation for broccoli is to lightly oil and salt the florets and roast them at 400 or 425 until they are slightly charred then dress them with lemon zest and a little more olive oil.  This approach is a variation on a pan-seared broccoli recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

This year, I’ve added another broccoli recipe to my list, one that takes this roasted broccoli and turns it into pesto.  

The recipe is from Food 52

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces broccoli florets (about 1 medium head)
  • 1/4 cup raw nuts (small, such as pine nuts, or chopped, such as walnuts)
  • medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup (100 grams) finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 handful basil leaves (or another tender herb, like parsley or dill)
  1. Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the broccoli florets to the pan and weigh them down using a grill press or another heavy skillet. Char the broccoli for 4 to 6 minutes, without moving it, until the broccoli is burnt and charred in spots.
  1. Use a wooden spoon to toss the broccoli, then pour in ½ cup of water. Cover the pan with a lid or sheet pan and steam the broccoli florets for 7 to 10 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated and the broccoli is bright green and fork-tender.
  1. Using a mortar and pestle, blender, or food processor, process the nuts, garlic, pepper, and salt until smooth. Add the Parmesan, basil, and ⅓ cup of oil and blend until smooth. Add the charred broccoli and process until roughly blended (leave some chunkier bits in there for texture).

I combine steps 1 and 2 and simply use my go-to method and roast the florets.  Broccoli pesto turns out to be an especially nice way to use the increasingly smaller side-shoot broccoli florets, but florets from a full head work well too. 

A food processor makes step 3 go really quickly. 

The result is a pasta sauce with rich broccoli flavor, great texture and subtle basil pesto undertone.  The Food 52 recipe author suggests “While this works well with pasta (it makes enough for 1 pound of dried noodles), don’t hesitate to branch out: Spread it on sandwiches, pair it with some hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, use it as a base for pizzas or flatbreads, dollop it over oatmeal or rice. Have fun with it.”  I haven’t branched out yet because it is so good on pasta, but I will.