You'll love this twist on pesto pasta with broccoli and a good splash of fresh lemon juice. Loads of flavor! And you'll have extra pesto to freeze for later use! (Tips & step-by-step tutorial below)

Add a bowl of tomato panzanella salad to start this tasty vegetarian meal!

lemon broccoli pesto pasta served in dinner bowl. A side of pine nuts and fresh basil

Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Lemon 

I'm a big fan of pesto pasta, so when I saw Gaby's version in her new book Eat What You Want (affiliate link), I was game!

This broccoli pesto pasta is exactly what it sounds like. A wholesome broccoli pasta, loaded with basil pesto deliciousness and a big, bright splash of lemon!

The broccoli blends in as part of the tasty pesto; even picky eaters won't object!

The flavors in this pesto pasta recipe will surprise your taste buds in the best way possible! And it's pretty easy to make.

Best part, this recipe makes extra broccoli pesto that you can freeze for later use! (I know a bunch of meal prep mavens who can appreciate this).

ingredients for pesto pasta: pasta, broccoli, lemon, basil leaves, pine nuts, pepper, parmesan cheese, olive oil

Ingredients & Prep

You can think of this recipe as having two main components: the broccoli pesto, which uses up most of the ingredients, and the pasta. Here's what you'll need:

  • Broccoli- You can use 1 head of broccoli cut into stems and florets or about 12 ounces of frozen broccoli (I used frozen, and you do not need to thaw it before cooking).
  • Pine nuts- 6 tablespoons of pine nuts (you'll use most of this to make the pesto and some to garnish). To toast the pine nuts, put them in a skillet (no oil needed) and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan often and stirring the pine nuts with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes until golden.
  • Parmesan Cheese- 3 cups of quality granted Parmesan. Some will be used in the pesto, and some to coat the pasta and to garnish. (Oops forgot to include this one in the photo above, but it's an important ingredient)!
  • Fresh Basil Leaves- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about 80 grams)
  • Lemon zest and juice- Zest and juice of 2 lemons, plus more zest for garnish. I love the extra zing from fresh lemon here!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 1 cup quality extra virgin olive oil to use for the broccoli pesto. (Find the olive oils I use at our shop here).
  • Pasta- 1 pound of short pasta of your choice (and if you're planning on a Mediterranean diet dinner, go for a whole wheat pasta)

How to Make Pesto Pasta

Lemon Broccoli Pesto Pasta: Step-by-Step (print friendly recipe below)

  1. Cook the broccoli

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil (make sure it's well salted with kosher salt). Add in the broccoli florets and stems (I used 12 ounces frozen broccoli here). You want the broccoli to be crisp tender, this should take about 3 to 4 minutes or so.
    Prepare a bowl of ice water to the side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked broccoli to the bowl of ice water. Then drain the broccoli well over a few paper towel sheets.
    Tip: Do not discard the cooking water, you will use it later for the past. Broccoli florets in a large bowl of ice water

  2. Make the Pesto

    Transfer the broccoli to the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a blade. Add 4 tablespoons of pine nuts, 1 ½ cups grated Parmesan, all the basil leaves (about 3 cups full), and zest and juice of 2 lemons. Run the processor for about 30 seconds to combine.
    Scrape the sides of the food processor. Cover and run the processor again, and while it's running, slowly drizzle the extra virgin olive oil from the top opening. Season with salt and pepper to tasteBroccoli pesto in the food processor

  3. Make the pasta and toss with Parmesan

    Bring the same pot of water back to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions (mine took about 10 minutes or so). Reserve some of the pasta water before you drain it.
    Return the drained pasta to the pot over medium-low heat. Add ¼ cup pasta water, 1 cup Parmesan cheese and stir to combine (about 1 minute). Your goal is to coat the pasta with the cheese.
    Remove from the heat. Cooked pasta tossed with Parmesan cheese in the pot

  4. Combine the pasta with the pesto

    Off heat (this is very important), add about ½ of the broccoli pesto to the pot of pasta (you can add a bit more than ½ to your liking). Toss until very well combined.(Store the rest of the pesto in the freezer for later use). Pasta is combined with the broccoli pesto in the pot off heat

  5. Serve

    Transfer to a big serving bowl and top with the last bit of Parmesan cheese, 2 more tablespoons of pine nuts, and more lemon zest, if you like. Add a few fresh basil leaves for garnish.Pesto pasta served in a bowl with forks and fresh basil for garnish

Tips and notes for pesto pasta recipe

Since the star in this recipe is really the broccoli pesto, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use cold water to wash the basil. Basil bruises easily so don't wash it in warm water. Be sure to dry it well before using in the pesto sauce. A salad spinner can help or just wrap the basil leaves up in paper towels till nice and dry.
  • Do not skip the lemon in making the broccoli pesto. Not all pesto sauces call for lemon but I think it's a key ingredient in this recipe. Lemon zest and juice brighten up the flavor and compliment the broccoli very well. And because lemon juice contains antioxidants citric and ascorbic acids, it helps keep the basil pesto from turning dark.
  • Do not toss the pesto pasta on the stove. Once the pasta is ready, and you've coated it with a bit of Parmesan cheese as listed in the recipe, remove it from the heat completely. Add the pesto in once the pot has been removed from heat, this will help keep the color nice and bright (remember, basil can turn dark).
  • What do you do with the extra broccoli pesto? This recipe makes a generous amount of lemon broccoli pesto. You will end up using ½ or a little bit more of the pesto you make. Save the rest in the freezer in an air-tight container or jar to use when you have a craving for this broccoli pasta.
A bowl of broccoli pesto pasta with pine nuts and basil

What nuts can be used in pesto?

Pine nuts are traditionally used in making pesto, but they can be expensive and less available than other nuts. If you need to replace the pine nuts, you can try shelled walnuts or blanched whole almonds or slivered almonds.

Which pasta is best with pesto?

With my homemade pasta sauce, I tend to use spaghetti. And I'll use spaghetti with pesto pasta as well. But for this recipe, I thought I'd change things up and use a pasta that's short and curvy pasta like fusilli or rotini. Because they're short, they're easy to toss with the broccoli pesto sauce and their curves hold on to as much of it as possible so you get the perfect bite every time. But really, you can play around with your choice of pasta.

More pasta? Try Pasta Primavera or my Simple Olive Oil Pasta. And if you love broccoli, try this amazing crispy oven roasted broccoli!

You may also enjoy 50+ Top Mediterranean diet recipes. For all recipes, visit us hereJOIN MY FREE E-MAIL LIST HERE. SHOP OUR ONLINE STORE FOR QUALITY OLIVE OILS, ALL-NATURAL SPICES AND MORE.

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lemon broccoli pesto pasta served in dinner bowl. A side of pine nuts and fresh basil

Lemon Broccoli Pesto Pasta Recipe


  • Author: Suzy
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

You'll love this twist on pesto pasta with broccoli and a good splash of fresh lemon juice. Loads of flavor! And you'll have extra pesto to freeze for later use!


Ingredients

Scale
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces frozen broccoli (or 1 head broccoli, stems and florets)
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 lb short pasta like Fusilli (use Whole Wheat pasta for Mediterranean diet option)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp tender (about 3 to 4 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to a large bowl of ice water. Do not discard the cooking water (you will use it to cook the pasta later). Drain the broccoli and dry on a paper towel.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the broccoli, 4 tablespoon of the pine nuts, 1 ½ cups of Parmesan, the basil leaves, and lemon zest and juice. Process until combined (about 30 seconds or so). Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover and run the processor again. And while the processor is running, slowly stream in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring the same pot of water back to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (about 10 minutes or so). Drain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  4. Return the drained pasta to the pot over medium-low heat. Add 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the reserved ¼ cup of pasta water and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese coast the pasta (about 1 minute).
  5. Remove from the heat and add half of the broccoli pesto (I added a bit more than half). Toss to coat the pasta with the broccoli pesto. (Reserve extra broccoli pesto or freeze it for a later use).
  6. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoon pine nuts, and a little lemon zest. Garnish with a few basil leaves. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Cook's Tip:  You will use only about ½ or a little more of the broccoli pesto. Transfer the rest to an air-tight freezer safe container or jar and freeze for later use.
  • Cook's Tip: Use whole wheat pasta if you're following a more strict Mediterranean diet. And if you need to lighten this recipe up some more, you can omit the 1 cup of Parmesan cheese used to coat the pasta in step #4.
  • Pine nut replacement: Pine nuts are your best bet for pesto, but they can be pricey and less available than other nuts. If you must replace pine nuts, try shelled walnuts (walnut hearts).
  • Recommended for this recipe: quality extra virgin olive oil like our Private Reserve or Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including all-natural and organic spices, olive oils and more.
  • Recipe is adapted from What's Gaby Cooking: Eat What You Want.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Pesto pasta, basil pesto pasta, broccoli pesto pasta, broccoli pasta

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. One of the most delicious pesto recipes I've ever had! I had to use lime juice in place of lemon because I didn't have it on hand, but I WILL be making this again with lemon, and it was honestly just as good with the lime. This recipe is so delicious, feels light and healthy, and is super easy. I added chickpeas with the pasta and pesto to make a filling meal.

  2. Made this last night and we all LOVED it! So easy! Because I was cooking for vegans, I just left out the cheese, but a vegan alternative can easily be substituted, or just added at the end. Even without the cheese this dish is delicious and creamy! Thank you so much! I love adding more veggies to my meals

  3. I made this recipe this afternoon and followed directions to a T. Oh my goodness, so good. I haven't put it over the pasta yet - I can't wait to try it. I could however sit and eat the broccoli pesto with a spoon.

  4. This is yummy! I used cashews (no pine nuts in my house today) and cut back on the Parmesan. I tossed with a hemp rigatoni for a hearty dish!

  5. Oven roasted the brocc, added 4 oz pesto into the overall brocc pesto mix. Tossed in a diced bratwurst from previous grill night into the final assembly. Great! Thanks for the inspiration.