Serve up a dose of nutritious broccoli with this easy Broccoli Pesto. It has a bright flavor from the inclusion of fresh lemon, requires no cooking (other than preparing the pasta) and is a perfect sauce for both pasta and pizza.
Most kids, mine included, love pasta and pizza so I love to find small ways to make them with flavorful sauces that have veggies in the mix. This broccoli pesto, which has two cups of fresh broccoli plus a cup of vitamin-rich parsley, is our current new favorite sauce. Along with Roasted Frozen Broccoli, it’s one of the broccoli recipes we make most often.
It’s easy to mix together and doesn’t require any cooking. Plus, it’s flavorful, yet not overpowering, to please the kids and the parents at the table.
The process for making this easy pesto recipe simply involves putting the ingredients into a food processor and processing them into a paste. That’s it! (Don’t have a food processor? You can use a blender instead.)
This sauce works well to make ahead and store in the fridge or freezer.
Contents hide 1 Broccoli Pesto 2 Your toddler won’t eat? Help is here! 3 Ingredients You Need 4 Ingredient Substitutions 5 Step-by-Step Instructions 6 Frequently Asked Questions 7 Broccoli Pesto Pasta Recipe 8 How to Store 9 Best Tips for Success 10 Related Recipes 11 Easy Broccoli Pesto (for Pasta and Pizza)
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Ingredients You Need
Here’s a look at the simple ingredients you’ll need to make this pesto recipe.
- Fresh broccoli florets: You can buy a bag of precut florets, or cut them off of a head of broccoli.
- Flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil: You’ll want to use the leaves only, and discard the stems of whichever herb you decide to use.
- Fresh lemon: Lemon brightens up the flavor. You can start with less lemon and add more after you taste the blended pesto.
- Olive oil: Olive oil helps the pesto blend easily. I use extra-virgin olive oil here.
- Grated Parmesan cheese: You can swap in Pecorino Romano if that’s easier for you to find or less expensive.
- Roasted sunflower seeds, toasted almonds, or walnuts: I usually use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts since they are affordable and have a nice flavor.
I don’t add garlic to my pesto since I find the flavor too strong, but you can add it if you’d like.
If you don’t have or don’t love parsley, you can substitute in fresh basil or baby spinach.
This works best with fresh broccoli and it’s not a great place to use frozen broccoli.
Use sunflower seeds to make this nut-free, or another nut that you prefer.
Use nutritional yeast in place of the Parmesan cheese to make this dairy-free.
Here’s a look at the process involved in making this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe.
- Add the broccoli and parsley to the food processor and grind roughly..
- Use a microplane to add the zest of a lemon. Cut in half and squeeze in the juice.
- Add the rest of the ingredients.
- Blend well, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times until the mixture is a thick paste.
TIP: The texture of this pesto should resemble the classic kind and should be uniformly mixed together.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I use broccoli pesto on?
In addition to using it on pasta, we love it in place of pizza sauce on pizza. You could also stir some into scrambled eggs or an omelet, add a tablespoon or two to a batch of homemade meatballs, stir some into a soup like minestrone for additional flavor, or even spread onto bread in a turkey sandwich or grilled cheese.
Can I give my 1 year old pesto?
Yes, you can give your 1 year old pesto. You can mix it with pasta or pizza as an easy, nutrient-rich sauce.
Can I make broccoli pesto without basil?
Yes, this recipe uses fresh broccoli and parsley. You can use basil if you like the flavor though.
Broccoli Pesto Pasta Recipe
To serve with pasta, toss with 1 pound of pasta prepared according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2-1 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the pasta when tossing with the pesto if it seems a little dry. (Mine usually isn’t, but just in case!)
You will need to use at least 1 cup of the pesto but can go up to 1 ½ cup depending on how much sauce you prefer.
How to Store
You can make this ahead of time and store it for future use, or store leftovers. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days before using. Or freeze in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.
Best Tips for Success
- Dry the broccoli completely.
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times to make sure that the ingredients that get stuck on the sides of the bowl have a chance to be well blended.
- Run the food processor for 60-90 seconds, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides, or until the seeds are pretty well blended. You don’t want there to be any large pieces of the seeds and this can take a little time. (It’s easy though!)
- Toss well into noodles. If it seems a little dry, add a bit of reserved pasta water. (If you toss it well to coat the pasta, this shouldn’t be a problem, but just in case!)