Broccoli Black Walnut Pesto Pasta

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Ingredients

One of our very favorite things to make is pesto. It’s just so versatile—you can put it on pasta, sandwiches, vegetables, meat and fish. And it’s such a flexible recipe, you can easily customize it to fit your on-hand ingredients and flavor preferences.

For example, there are so many herbs and greens you can use as a substitute for basil (tip: if you can eat it in a salad, you can probably make pesto out of it). Spinach, arugula, and kale all work great. Sometimes when we’re making this recipe, we’ll use ½ basil and ½ spinach, just to sneak in a little extra vitamin K. And since basil is such a strong flavor, the spinach mellows out the peppery taste a bit. You can also play around with the cheese you use—Parmesan is a very common choice in the U.S., but Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino are more traditional favorites.

But of course, our favorite ingredient swap in making a signature pesto is the Black Walnuts. While you’ll often see pesto recipes call for pine nuts, swapping them for Black Walnuts gives the recipe an earthy, buttery quality that makes it even more delicious.

And of course, Black Walnuts are just bursting with nutrition. With the highest protein of any tree nut, they are low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, contain Vitamin A, iron, minerals and fiber and are cholesterol- and sugar-free! So basically, by making pesto with Black Walnuts, you’re adding flavor and boosting the nutrition. Easy to see why this is one of our favorites?

In this recipe, we’re serving our pesto over pasta, but again, you can do just about anything with this versatile sauce. So use your imagine and enjoy!

 

Broccoli Black Walnut Pesto Pasta

Yield: approx. 2 ½ cups of pesto

For the Pesto

  • 8 oz broccoli florets (remove larger stems)
    2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Black Walnuts, chopped
  • 2/3 packed cups fresh basil leaves, dry
  • 1/3 packed cups fresh spinach, dry
  • 1/4 cup Black Walnut Oil
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1/4 cup salt, then add the broccoli. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and just tender, about 4 minutes. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl of Ice Water to stop the cooking. RESERVE the cooking water to use for the pasta.  When broccoli is cool, using a salad spinner and/or paper towels, dry broccoli as much as possible without smashing it.

In the food processer, pulse the garlic until fine.  Add the walnuts and pulse until they are in small pieces but not as small as sand.  Add the basil, spinach, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice. Pulse scraping the bowl often, until leaves are finely diced.

Add the broccoli and quickly pulse until it is incorporated into the leaves but not turned to paste.

Slowly add the oil with the machine running. Finish pesto with a quick pulse adding the cheese, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pesto may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated at this point, until ready to serve.

For the Pasta

½ to 1-pound pasta, such as medium shells or linguine.

Return the water used for the broccoli to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  RESERVE ½ cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.

While the pasta is hot, stir in the pesto. Use a generous ½ cup pesto for each ½ pound of pasta.  If the mixture seems thick, moisten with the reserved pasta water or remaining lemon juice.

Season to taste with parmesan, salt and pepper and garnish with additional Black Walnuts.

Tip:  The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or if packed in Ziplock bags, it will freeze for use later.

One more customization idea! Try chilling the pasta and adding diced chicken, broccoli florets, diced tomatoes and/or other vegetables to create a delicious main dish pasta salad.

 

Directions

For the Pesto: 

  • 8 oz broccoli florets (remove larger stems)
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2/3 packed cups fresh basil leaves, dry
  • 1/3 packed cups fresh spinach, dry
  • 1/4 cup Black Walnut Oil
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

 

For the Pasta:

  • ½ to 1-pound pasta, such as medium shells or linguine.

 

For the Pesto:

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1/4 cup salt, then add the broccoli.
    Cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and just tender, about 4 minutes. Use a spider or
    slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl of Ice Water to stop the cooking. RESERVE the cooking water to
    use for the pasta. When broccoli is cool, using a salad spinner and/or paper towels, dry broccoli as
    much as possible without smashing it.
  2. In the food processer, pulse the garlic until fine. Add the walnuts and pulse until they are in small
    pieces but not as small as sand. Add the basil, spinach, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice. Pulse, scraping
    the bowl often, until leaves are finely diced.
  3. Add the broccoli and quickly pulse until it is incorporated into the leaves but not turned to paste.
  4. Slowly add the oil with the machine running. Finish pesto with a quick pulse adding the cheese,
    lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pesto may be covered with plastic wrap
    and refrigerated at this point, until ready to serve.

For the Pasta:

  1. Return the water used for the broccoli to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package
    directions. RESERVE ½ cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. While the pasta is hot, stir in the pesto. Use a generous ½ cup pesto for each ½ pound of pasta. If the
    mixture seems thick, moisten with the reserved pasta water or remaining lemon juice.
  3. Season to taste with parmesan, salt and pepper and garnish with additional Black Walnuts.
  4. Tip: The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or if packed in ziplock bags, it will
    freeze for use later. Chilling the pasta and adding diced chicken, broccoli florets, diced tomatoes and/or other vegetables turns this into a delicious main dish pasta salad.
Recipe Video

Broccoli Black Walnut Pesto Pasta

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