I love to cook with vibrant green vegetables in the dead of winter. Not only does the color evoke feelings of freshness and life, the nutrients in green veggies are essential for maintaining good health throughout the season. I always try to get in a few servings a day of greens, whether it be in salads, smoothies or in pasta like this Fusilli with Broccoli Pesto. This dish is full of fresh flavor from basil leaves, broccoli florets, warm toasted walnuts, parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon juice. Super easy, delicious and quite versatile.
What You Need To Make Fusilli with Broccoli Pesto
- Broccoli- Making broccoli pesto is similar to making traditional basil pesto, except we are adding in some cooked broccoli. Simply microwave broccoli florets for 5 minutes in a bowl with some water. Season with salt. Then drain.
- Fusilli- I used Sfoglini's beet fusilli for this recipe to make it fun, interesting and a bit more healthy. But you can use regular, whole wheat or gluten-free pasta if you'd like.
- Fresh Basil- You can't go wrong using fresh basil in pesto. But particularly in this broccoli pesto, basil add a slightly sweet and peppery flavor that is pleasant and vibrant.
- Nuts- Depending on my mood, I will add either pine nuts or walnuts to the pesto. Toasting the nuts will make them more flavorful, but this is totally optional and not necessary. (*If you have a nut allergy you can make the pesto without nuts or substitute with sunflower seeds if not allergic).
- Grated Cheese- Honestly, I can't make pesto without it. You have the option to use vegan or regular parmesan cheese for this recipe depending on your dietary preference.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- If you want the most flavor, use extra virgin olive oil. It will absolutely make a difference in the overall richness of the pesto.
- Seasonings- A touch of coarse salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes brings the pesto flavor to life.
- Lemon- The citrus notes of the lemon compliment broccoli and basil really nicely. You can even use lemon zest if you prefer a stronger citrus punch.
Why It's Important To Eat Your Greens
- They are excellent sources of Vitamin A, K, iron, folic acid and B vitamins, manganese, copper, potassium and carotenoids which can have an effect on lowering blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk.
- Isothiocyanates and sulphoraphane. Say what? Don't worry those are just fancy names for antioxidants that have been shown in studies to exhibit anticancer properties. They are found in abundance in green and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.
- Fiber. Our gut depends on fiber to produce microorganisms essential for immunity, proper brain function and digestion. Green veggies contain lots of it.
- Green vegetables add visual appeal to any dish, not to mention a burst of delicious fresh flavor.
Besides broccoli, there are so many other great tasting green veggies that include: spinach, kale, collard greens, chards, cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts, just to name a few.
Best Green Vegetable Cooking Methods
It is true that certain types of cooking methods do remove a good portion of the nutrient content from green vegetables. But, let's face it. Sometimes eating them raw isn't the most tasty or appealing experience. Cooking can make vegetables more palatable, easier to digest and often allows us to add in more flavor.
If and when you are cooking greens, there are some methods that are considered to be better than others. Microwave or stovetop steaming your greens in as little water as possible, for the least amount of time, is considered a great way to keep most nutrients intact. Because many green veggies contain considerable amounts of iron, it's a good idea to add in some citrus. Iron is absorbed best when consumed along with vitamin C.
For this recipe, I microwave the broccoli for just a few minutes in a little bit of water in the microwave before adding it to my food processor. The broccoli softens a bit and makes it easier to blend with other ingredients.
Here are some more great recipe suggestions to help you get more greens into your diet:
This post was not sponsored. All opinions are my own.
Fusilli with Broccoli Pesto
- 1 lb fusilli pasta
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup walnuts or pine nuts- to intensify flavor the nuts may be toasted ahead of time in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes.
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan cheese or regular parmesean cheese
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice + more if desired
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt + more for cooking
- pinch pepper + more for cooking
- Begin by boiling a large pot of water for the pasta and cook according to directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, steam the broccoli by adding it to a microwaveable bowl along with water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with the bowl with a ceramic plate and microwave for about 3-4 minutes until slightly tender.
- Drain the excess water and transfer broccoli to a food processor along with basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Pulse and begin to drizzle in the olive oil. The pesto should be processed until the broccoli is finely chopped and the mixture is blended well. You may need to add in more oil, or alternatively, you can use some of the pasta water to thin it out if needed.
- Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl (or add it back to the pot to save yourself from having to wash some extra dishes).
- Toss the pasta with pesto.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Top with additional cheese and or a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.