Everyday Food (January/February 2012)
Zach's sister Cassidy grew up a very picky eater. Sitting down to a meal was more like entering hostage negotiations between Cassidy and Zach's parents in an attempt to get her to try new things. Even through college, she was extremely particular about textures and colors, and she essentially allowed no vegetables to pass her lips.
Since then, Cassidy's come around. She started testing the waters with things like cream cheese and olives, and now she'll eat everything from Brussels sprouts to foie gras. She's turned out to be one of the most adventurous eaters we know. (Perhaps she's making up for lost time?)
But there's still the matter of vegetables. Cassidy will eat them, and there are some she even rather enjoys. But she still doesn't think she eats enough veggies. Over the holidays, she told us she wants to get better at "hiding" vegetables into her diet, a la Jessica Seinfeld.
"Hiding them from...?" we asked.
"Oh," she said, "from myself."
Cassidy, this one's for you.
We loved the idea of this recipe. The pasta and white beans sounded hearty and filling, and the notion of cramming an entire bunch of broccoli into a pesto sauce seemed very clever. (Since you boil the broccoli and then blend it in a food processor, we actually went ahead and diced a portion of the big stems as well as the florets. It worked well.)
As it is, the broccoli pesto is fine, but a little on the bland side. And if you're truly a broccoli-phobe, you won't be fooled by this pesto. It tastes pretty much like what it is -- broccoli with parsley. We happen to love broccoli, so that was fine with us.
But here are some thoughts on how to take this from good to great:
- Pick basil. If you're gonna make a pesto, make a pesto. Swap in basil for the parsley. It'll add more flavor and (if you care) mask the broccoli flavor even further.
- More means more. If we make this again, we'll definitely up the amounts of lemon, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan and salt and pepper. (This recipe includes only half of a small clove of garlic.) That should help take care of any blandness.
- Seeing red. Why not add a couple cups of diced tomatoes to the food processor? Obviously, that will take the sauce out of the realm of pesto, but we think it would make for a tasty dish. And if you are concerned about hiding the broccoli flavor, tomatoes would definitely do the trick. (If you do add tomatoes, we'd suggest leaving out the lemon; otherwise the finished sauce could end up being too acidic.)
As we said, this is a good dish that's pretty tasty. And with a few little alterations, we'd really love it.
And it's a great way to sneak some veggie goodness into a meal. We think even Cassidy would approve.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 bunch broccoli, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
10 ounces short pasta, such as fusilli
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (1/4 cup), plus more for serving (optional)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1/2 small garlic clove
1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook broccoli until tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a food processor. Return water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.
To food processor, add oil, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, parsley, and garlic. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down side as needed. Transfer pesto to pot with pasta. Stir to coat, adding enough reserved pasta water to make a creamy sauce. Stir in beans and heat over medium until warmed through.
Season with salt and pepper. To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired.