Food, Wine

It’s Easy Being Green with Broccoli Pesto

People are talking more than ever about plant-forward eating — putting vegetables, beans and grains at the center of the plate. Olive oil in place of butter. More greens, less meat. It’s not about giving up anything. It’s about shifting the balance to give wholesome plant-based foods more space on your plate.

broccoli presto

Given that April is Down to Earth Month in California (yes, it’s official), it’s a great time to add some plant-based dinners to your rotation. Make broccoli pesto with penne pasta and you’ll see how satisfying a meatless meal can be. If you don’t have penne in the pantry, no worries. Spaghetti, linguine, rigatoni — this broccoli pesto loves them all.

Fresh broccoli is one of those superfoods that nutritionists put on a pedestal. It’s loaded with fiber, antioxidants and minerals, low in calories and big in taste. A lot of people prefer the tender florets so California growers started marketing the “crowns” — the top part — separately. The stems aren’t discarded, however. (That would be criminal!) Instead, they’re sold to processors for broccoli slaw.

Broccoli prefers a cool climate, but California farms harvest it year-round by moving the growing grounds. Monterey County is the number-one zone. Those cool ocean breezes are as good for broccoli as they are for wine grapes. The recipe below makes enough pesto for a pound of pasta. If that’s more pesto than you need for dinner, save the extra and spread it on crostini the next day — a tasty appetizer with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

winery event


California wineries will be celebrating Down To Earth Month in April, all month long, so check our list of winery events and offers for activities that appeal to you. Vineyard hikes, behind the scenes sustainability tours, and virtual and in-person tastings are on the menu and some of the activities will fill up quickly. During Down to Earth Month, we raise a glass to all those folks who are making California wine more green from grapes to glass.

The Pour

When vegetables are the star of the main course, think Sauvignon Blanc. Broccoli, asparagus and leafy greens love the variety’s pineapple and citrus aromas and crisp texture. Each sip of the wine brightens the dish, like a squeeze of lemon in a salad.

Sauvignon Blanc is grown all over the state of California, but Lake County is one of its prime territories, especially in high-elevation sites where the swing between daytime high temps and nighttime lows can top 50ºF (28ºC). That difference is known as the diurnal swing, and it helps Sauvignon Blanc ripen fully while maintaining its zippy acidity. 

Broccoli Pesto with Penne Pasta

Easy into Spring with this vegetarian pasta dish. Many markets sell broccoli crowns, the florets with most of the stem removed. If you can’t find the crowns, purchase whole broccoli and cut off all but 1 inch of stem. But don’t throw away the stems! Pare them with a knife or vegetable peeler, steam them and enjoy as a nutritious snack. Pair with California Sauvignon Blanc or California Pinot Gris.

Broccoli Pesto with Penne Pasta


  • ¾ pound (350 g) broccoli crowns  
  • 16 to 18 large fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced 
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) heavy cream 
  • 2 tablespoons (20 g) pine nuts 
  • ¼ cup (20 g) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano cheese, plus more for the table 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 pound (450 g) dried penne rigate or rigatoni



Recommended Pairings

California Sauvignon Blanc or California Pinot Gris

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