Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pasta with Pecan and Broccoli Pesto

Pecan and Broccoli Pesto? Yes, and it was quite tasty!

Following all the Christmas food this week, I was craving Chinese food. Then I was sick of that tonight and wasn't feeling well enough to go grocery shopping, so I had to come up with something to make out of what we had available at home. I knew I was going to make some type of pasta dish, and I didn't have much meat available to use (I found out after I started cooking that we had bacon...I'll use that tomorrow).

We have lots of pecans right now, so that I was going to put those in there somehow, and we have lots of frozen broccoli. I had one lemon left, plenty of cheese, and some pasta.  I did my usual scanning over recipes online with some of these ingredients and came up with the pesto.  Since I didn't use a whole lot of broccoli, we weren't really able to tell it was there.  I roasted the pecans before adding them to the pesto mixture, and the nuttiness of the dish was divine and very filling.  Whole wheat pasta of some sort would have paired nicely, but I was all out of it.  The bucatini I used is like a thick spaghetti with a hole through the middle. It is the closest thing I've found to Pici, a traditional Tuscan pasta, while grocery shopping.

I had a few frozen shrimp left (pre-cooked...I should really pay more attention to labels these days), so I heated some butter in a pan and tossed the thawed, pre-cooked shrimp for a minute or so and served those with the pasta. The sweetness of the shrimp went nicely with the nutty pasta. This dish may seem a little complicated, but it came together rather quickly. My husband approved; however, my two-year-old son wouldn't even try it. He settled for Chef Boyardee. *sigh*


Pecans (I used whole pecans...from my freezer)
Pasta of your choice (I used Bucatini...from Giada Laurentis' brand at Target)
Extra Virgin olive oil 
1-3 canned anchovies in oil (omit these if they totally gross you out, but I urge you to give them a try)
Red pepper flakes (as many to satisfy your desired heat level)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 cups broccoli florets (I used frozen)
1-2 tablespoons garlic, minced 
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated (I used Pecorino, but I was torn as to which to use)
Juice from 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
Zest of one whole lemon


1.  Place your pecans on a pan (I line mine with foil) and toast them in the oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes on low heat (about 200-250 degrees F).

2.  Bring a pot of water to boil for your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

3. While the pecans are toasting and the pasta is cooking, make the pesto.  Heat a few 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-large non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the anchovies and stir until they break down into the oil.  Add red pepper flakes (I added just a tiny bit at this stage, because I served this to my two-year-old.  My husband and I topped off our pasta with an extra sprinkle or two right before we ate it), black pepper, and some salt and reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the garlic and the broccoli and cook for 2-3 minutes (longer if your broccoli is still frozen...I thawed mine first).

4. Zest your lemon and place the zest aside.  Using a blender, food processor, etc... blend the broccoli/garlic/anchovy mixture with 3/4 of your toasted pecans, juice of half the lemon, cheese and more olive oil as needed to aid the blending process.  Set the pesto aside.

5. Chop the remaining pecans into small pieces and set aside.

6. When the pasta is finished cooking, use a coffee cup or some other heat-safe container to scoop out some of the starchy cooking liquid. Set this aside and drain the pasta.

7. Heat the pan you cooked the broccoli mixture in to medium-low heat, and then add the pasta, pesto (as much as you think you need...I had some left over), some of the starchy pasta water, and a little more lemon juice. Mix well. 

8. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest. Toss, and then taste to see if you need to add more salt or pepper. 

9.  Before serving, sprinkle the pasta with the reserved pecans you chopped (I like a little crunchiness to my dishes sometimes).

I served this with shrimp, but I think this would be lovely alongside some type of grilled while fish, such as Tilapia or Grouper.

I actually forgot to add the cheese to the pesto at first, and the pesto tasted pretty good without it.  So, this would make a nice vegan pasta dish as well.

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