This creamy broccoli pesto pasta recipe has become one of my recent quick dinner go-tos. It can be thrown together in minutes, is definitely budget-friendly and filled with extra veggies which is always a bonus. Add roasted chicken or canned tuna to the dish to make it more filling and stretch the flavour and budget further.
Traditional Genovese Pesto Pasta Sauce
Basil pesto and cream make the base of the traditional Genovese pesto pasta sauce. The name, Genovese comes from the port of Genoa where the pesto recipe originally hails from. The main ingredients of the pesto are fresh basil leaves, cashews and cheese. Specifically, cow’s milk Grana Padano and sheep’s milk Pecorino cheeses. Oil helps emulsify the texture.
I absolutely love the flavour and the simplicity of the basil pesto and the resulting sauce. The rich flavour and grassy aroma of basil marry so well with the sharp and pungent flavours the cheeses. And, of course, the creamy earthy flavour of cashews helps bring it all together. It’s salty and incredibly moreish.
Creamy Broccoli Pesto Pasta Sauce
The traditional Genovese pesto pasta recipe is perfect and simple, but I wanted to add more veggies to the mix. Broccoli is the perfect vegetable for this. You can blend it into small bits and add to the sauce along with other greens. Finely sliced zucchini, spring onions, baby spinach leaves and even frozen peas go really well here.
Whilst you can omit bacon and make it vegetarian, I like the addition. Roasted shredded chicken or, perhaps surprisingly, canned tuna go really well here and can help bulk out the dish.
I created this broccoli pesto pasta sauce recipe during my initial trial of the #120dollargrocerychallenge and loved it so much it’s been on high rotation since.
Enjoy sprinkled with black pepper and plenty of Parmesan cheese shaved generously on top when serving.
- 200 g pasta (I like to use penne or rigatoni but spaghetti also works)
- 1 head broccoli
- 2 small zucchinis
- 2 sprigs spring onion
- 2 middle rashers bacon optional
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 300 ml fresh (pure) cream
- 95 g basil pesto (pesto Genovese)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese to taste
- Cook pasta according to packet instructions – place in a large pot of boiling water and cook for around 6-8 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Drain.
- Meanwhile, cut broccoli into florets and process together with the stalk part, in a food processor until it resembles rice grains in size. Finely slice zucchini and spring onions. Dice bacon.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast for 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove and set aside for serving.
- Return pan to the heat and add bacon and cook stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add zucchini and the white parts of the sliced spring onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add processed broccoli. Increase heat to high and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add cream and bring back to the boil. Stir in pesto. Add up to 1 cup of hot water to loosen the sauce.
- (If using, add shredded cooked chicken or canned tuna and stir through the sauce).
- Divide pasta between serving plates or bowls. Top with the broccoli pesto sauce.
- Sprinkle with pepper, cheese and toasted pine nuts.