Saturday, April 7, 2012

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

It's been an unbelievably tiring week. My body is weary, my mind's a blank. My plan for the weekend? Vegetating in front of the television, reading Paul Auster's Sunset Park (I started it four months ago and am barely past the third chapter. Shame!) and ... nope, that's it. That's my plan for the weekend.

While I generally find cooking and baking quite relaxing, I really couldn't muster up the energy to cook an elaborate meal this weekend. Forget about an elaborate meal; I didn't even want to peal and chop an onion. And, don't be shocked but I didn't even feel like brewing m own tea — I used a three-in-one mix (where you just add boiling water to a premix of tea, milk and sugar).

Lazy, lazy weekend.

Now back when I was living on my own, this wouldn't have been a problem — I'd be content to just eat a bowl of cereal for dinner or a tub of yoghurt. Or a bowl of nuts. Or some instant noodles. Or just a bag of nuts. But I don't live alone and, tired as I am, I'd feel incredibly guilty if I served my husband a bowl of muesli for lunch.

So, I settled on the next best thing: I decided to make a dish that looked impressive and tasted phenomenal but took hardly any time or effort.

I made pasta. And for the sauce, I made pesto. I seriously thank God for pasta and I thank the Italians, particularly the Genoans for their pesto.

I find pesto to be the most incredible sauce ever created. Ever.  Its simply mind-blowing how much flavour you can get from simply crushing basil leaves, garlic, Parmesan cheese, toasted (pine) nuts and mixing the paste with olive oil. Mind-blowing.  And, you can use a blender to get this done although I've been told that to get the best out of your pesto, you have to chop/pound the ingredients by hand, this way yielding a slightly chunkier paste. I used a blender, of course. 

Traditional pesto is made with basil leaves but there are numerous variations: from sun-dried tomatoes to parsley to spinach ... you name it. Pesto incidentally means to pound or crush and therefore these variations may feature different main ingredients but the process is the same and they almost always incorporate the garlic, cheese, nuts and olive oil that are part of the original recipe. So far, I've stuck to making herb-based pestos: basil, parsley and coriander are my favourites. Oh. And once, when my friend bought me a tub of sun dried tomatoes from Italy, I made a sun-dried tomato pesto. Twas delicious, of course.

Today, I made broccoli pesto. Yeah, I balked at the idea too at first but I was eager to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed, let me tell you, If you ever want to trick someone into liking broccoli, this is the way to go. The pesto was delicious. Broccoli has a very distinct taste (which I love) but it is hardly overpowering in this pesto, despite it being the main ingredient. 

All in all, it took me 15 mins to cook lunch. That wasn't too painful... 

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

1 cup broccoli florets. steamed until soft (but not mushy)
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1/3-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts (or walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Blend (or pound/chop extremely finely) the broccoli, parsley and garlic until finely minced. Add the cheese and pulse a few times. Gently let the oil stream in as you blend until the oil is incorporated and pulse a few more times to incorporate the oil with the paste. Season.

Cook the pasta. Toss it in some olive oil and then coat as generously as you wish with the pesto. Garnish with some chilli flakes.

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