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.
- 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
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Boil the broccoli crowns whole until the stems are just tender when pierced with a knife, 3 to 4 minutes, then transfer with tongs to the ice water to chill quickly. Drain well and pat dry. Reserve the boiling water for cooking the pasta.
Set aside one-third of the broccoli and chop the remainder coarsely. Put the chopped broccoli in a food processor with the basil and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube, processing until the mixture is nearly smooth. Add the cream and pine nuts and process again until nearly smooth.
Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and stir in the grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. While the pasta cooks, cut the remaining broccoli into bite-size florets. Just before the pasta is done, add the florets to the boiling water to heat through. Remove 1 cup of the boiling water and whisk just enough of it into the pesto to make a sauce that will coat the pasta nicely. You won’t need it all.
Drain the pasta and broccoli and add it to the serving bowl. Toss well and serve immediately. Pass additional grated cheese at the table.