Broccoli Rabe and Walnut Pesto with Pasta

Earlier in the week my best friend invited me over and she made a delicious pasta dish with broccoli rabe and sausage for dinner.  Now because someone (with the initials GDL) didn’t specify as to how big the broccoli rabe bunches should be, we were left wondering if the massive amount of broccoli rabe that 2 bunches gave us was actually the right amount, or maybe GDL’s bunches are smaller.  We ended up deciding that one was enough, and so my friend had one bunch leftover, which she sent me home with (Thank’s Rebecca!!).  Aren’t presents of food the best?!?!  So of course I needed to do something with this broccoli rabe, and so I decided the best thing to do in this situation was to consult the ever-trusty interwebs.  After doing a bit of searching, I came upon some recipes for pesto made with broccoli rabe.  I LOVE pesto, particularly the classic basil pesto (which I’ll be making soon with basil from my very own garden!), but I’m open to all types.  Even better- I had all the ingredients!  I’ve had some walnuts in my freezer for a while, some was used to make walnut shortbread (awesome!), but the rest of the walnuts haven’t found homes yet.   This pesto seemed the perfect home.  Also- Parmesan (or pecorino cheese), olive oil, and garlic are all pantry staples for me…. and of course pasta.  This pesto turned out great!  It’s a little bit bitter due to the rabe, which I quite enjoyed.  Basil pesto is still my favorite, but this is a great option if you are basiled out, or want something a little different.

Broccoli Rabe and Walnut Pesto with Pasta
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1/3 cup, plus 2 tbsp walnuts
1/2 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound pasta (I used shells, the original recipe used linguine- use whatever you want!!)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or pie plate and bake about 8 minutes until fragrant and slightly toasted.  Chop 2 tbsp of the walnuts.
2. Bring two pots of salted water to a boil (one for the broccoli rabe, one for the pasta).  Add the pasta to one of the pots, and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
3. While the pasta is cooking, add the broccoli rabe to one of the pots and cook about 3 minutes until tender.  Drain the broccoli rabe, and rinse with cold water to cool.  Transfer to a cutting board, and coarsely chop.
4. In your food processor, add the garlic clove, and pulse a few times until minced.  Add 1/3 cup of walnuts, and pulse a few times, until coarsely chopped.  Add the broccoli rabe, olive oil, and crushed red pepper.  Process until the broccoli rabe is finely chopped.  Add the Pecorino cheese, and pulse a few times until just combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. In a large bowl combine the pesto with the cooked, drained pasta.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of the reserved chopped walnuts, and a sprinkling of grated Pecorino cheese.
Notes:
  • You can make the pesto a day ahead and refrigerate until use.  Just bring the pesto up to room temperature, and then toss with the pasta.
  • If you don’t have walnuts, you could substitute pine nuts, and I’ve seen broccoli rabe recipes using pistachios, so that would probably be fabulous as well!
  • Don’t have broccoli rabe?  Regular broccoli or Broccolini would be a good substitute, and would be less bitter, if bitter’s not your thing.
  • The next time I make this I’m thinking I’ll add a bit more garlic, because I like things garlicky- an extra clove would be great.
  • Know what else would be good in this?  If you want some meatiness- hot Italian sausage- since the flavors go together so excellently.
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