Similar to yesterday’s curry, I’m not sure if you can call this sauce pesto when it contains literally none of the traditional pesto ingredients…AND YET. Once it’s all done, it feels distinctly pesto-ish, just with a very broccoli flavor. I followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (love her, right?!) and thought it was both simple and delicious.
Start by setting a head of broccoli (I bought the pre-cut florets) in a mesh strainer over a pot of boiling water with a lid. You’ll use this water later to boil pasta so it’s doing double duty. When the broccoli is done (about 6 min), set it aside and put your pasta in the boiling water and cook til al dente. (Note: I used a radiatori shape vs. the spaghetti of the recipe and loved – it really catches the sauce nicely.) When the pasta is done, reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta and setting it in your serving bowl. Now use that same pot to melt 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil and using it to sauté 1/2 chopped onion and 1 clove minced garlic for 5ish minutes until nice and tender. Add the broccoli back to the pot, along with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. (Note: The recipe didn’t call for the crushed red pepper but I loved the addition. Also, It definitely needs the salt.) Cook over medium for about 2 more minutes and then add 4 tbsp cream (Note: I used half and half and eyeballed it) before taking an immersion blender to the whole thing. (You could also transfer to a blender or food processor, but I love the one-pot nature of this recipe.) It’ll look a little thick and dry, but don’t worry, that’s what the pasta water is for. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss, add some pasta water if need be, and top with fresh parm or asiago.
So there’s no herbs and no nuts, which means it’s not really a pesto, but it’s GOOD. And as pasta sauces go, it’s crazy healthy. The only less than healthy thing here is the pasta itself. And if you use almond milk, you could make this vegan…but then you couldn’t top it with cheese, which is OBVIOUSLY my favorite part. I made a pretty big batch and it was devoured.