Made with a handful of basic ingredients, this vibrant broccoli pesto is insanely easy to make. Toss it with pasta for a delicious weeknight dinner!
If we’re getting technical, this broccoli pesto isn’t really a pesto at all. It’s missing one of the key ingredients that makes pesto, pesto: nuts! Pine nuts are a signature ingredient in traditional basil pesto, thickening it and adding nutty richness. Though I often swap them for pepitas, walnuts, hemp seeds, etc., I typically make pesto with some sort of nut or seed.
But in this recipe, the broccoli steps in for the nuts. It’s not an exact replacement by any means, but I love the results. This broccoli pesto is lighter and brighter than a traditional pesto. It also has a looser texture, so it’s perfect for tossing with pasta.
Quick, easy, and satisfying, it’s made with 8 ingredients and comes together in under 15 minutes. The next time you don’t know what to cook on a weeknight, this broccoli pesto recipe will be waiting for you.
Broccoli Pesto Recipe Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this broccoli pesto recipe:
- Broccoli, of course! You’ll just use the florets in this recipe. Save the stalk for another use, like making broccoli rice.
- Fresh herbs – Use basil, parsley, or a mix.
- Parmesan cheese – For a vegan variation, substitute nutritional yeast.
- Fresh lemon juice and zest – They make the pesto bright and refreshing.
- Garlic – A pesto essential! It adds sharp depth of flavor.
- Extra-virgin olive oil – It adds richness and brings the sauce together.
- And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
How to Make Broccoli Pesto
Like regular pesto, this broccoli pesto sauce is super easy to make. Here’s what you need to do:
First, cook the broccoli. Before I pulse the broccoli into the pesto, I blanch it until it’s crisp-tender and bright green. The process is simple: bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and drop in the broccoli florets. After 30 seconds, transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Allow them to cool for at least a minute. Then, drain them and pat them dry.
Then, blend up the sauce! Add the broccoli to a food processor, along with the remaining pesto ingredients. Pulse until the sauce is combined, but not pureed. There should still be some very finely chopped pieces of broccoli to give the pesto texture.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you think the sauce tastes bright on its own, don’t worry! It should. Once it’s tossed with pasta, its lemony flavor tastes just right.
Broccoli Pesto Serving Suggestions
This nut-free pesto has a perfect consistency for making pesto pasta. When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook some pasta (any shape you like!) until al dente. Drain it and toss it with the pesto, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper as desired.
Before digging in, garnish the pasta with red pepper flakes, more Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan, and pine nuts for crunch.
Serve the broccoli pesto pasta on its own, or pair it with a salad or simple vegetable side dish. We love it with a roasted vegetable medley, roasted cauliflower, or sautéed kale. It would be excellent with my Citrus Salad with Fennel and Avocado or Italian Chopped Salad, too.
More Favorite Pestos and Sauces
- Classic Alfredo Sauce or Vegan Alfredo Sauce
- Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Romesco Sauce
- Chimichurri Sauce
- Green Goddess Dressing
- 1 heaping cup very small broccoli floret pieces
- ½ cup fresh basil or parsley
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces pasta, cooked al dente
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Additional Parmesan or Vegan Parmesan
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil and place a bowl of ice water nearby. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water for 30 seconds, and then use a slotted spoon to scoop it into the ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry.
- Place the broccoli into a food processor with the basil, olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Pulse until combined.
- If desired, toss the pesto with the cooked pasta. Serve with pine nuts, red pepper flakes, and additional cheese. Season to taste and serve.