One of the unexpected (but retrospectively obvious) consequences of food blogging is that you become hyper-aware of your cooking habits. I never thought that I made that much Italian food, but my archives to date would beg to differ. It probably has a lot to do with the season, little is more comforting during the cold months than a nice big bowl of carb-laden pasta. Not to mention that it’s inexpensive, easy to prepare, and a bit of a maverick thanks to the countless sauces you can douse it with.
And so it is without shame, that I bring another pasta recipe. This one is a total keeper (unsurprising given the fact that it is coming from the goddess of food bloggers, smitten kitchen). It is full of broccoli, a vegetable I feel is often overlooked in these trendy times of kale and butternut squash, which helps you feel less guilty about eating a big bowl of pasta (not that I actually feel guilty about pasta, I got into this weird mindset when I moved to France that living in the land of bread and cheese meant that I didn’t have to eat healthily anymore. This, unfortunately, turned out to be false, but I digress). It’s also a very quick and low maintenance sauce, but what really won me over was the inclusion of cream.
I made a few changes from the original recipe. I doubled it because our grocery store sells both broccoli and pasta in lots of 500g, it seemed to be a sign and the sauce keeps well in the fridge, but it is very easy to halve it if need be. I used wholewheat pasta instead of regular spaghetti, the nutty flavor really compliments the broccoli cream sauce (I also hear it’s healthier, but because I’m still in France that doesn’t matter). I replaced the onion with shallot, and I upped the garlic like Deb suggested. In place of cream, I used generous amounts of crème fraîche, which I hope you’ll also try now that you know how easy it is to make at home.
None of these changes are revolutionary, and I stayed fairly faithful to the proportions in the original recipe. One thing I certainly wouldn’t change is the necessity of using Parmesan. Of course, in my world Parmesan is always necessary, but it’s especially true here. This sauce is fairly simple after all, but the Parmesan takes it one step higher.
Broccoli Cream Pesto with Wholewheat Pasta
Slightly adapted from smitten kitchen
500g wholewheat pasta (or regular if you prefer)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4-5 small shallots
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup crème fraîche
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the broccoli into florets, peel the stem and slice it into coins. I don’t have a steamer or a metal colander (I know, what is my life?) so here is my alternative steaming method: Pour about 1/2 cup of water into a pan with a lid, and turn the heat onto medium high. Add a pinch of salt, then the broccoli and cover to steam for about 6 minutes or until it’s barely tender. Feel free to go the traditional way, or boil the broccoli for about half the time.
While the broccoli is steaming (or before if you’re more organized than I), slice your shallots. Crush the garlic with the side of your knife, then mince into small pieces. Set a pot of heavily salted water over high heat and then cook your pasta to package directions. When the broccoli is done, remove from the pan (I just stored mine in the blender), and pour off any water that remains.
Add the butter and olive oil to the pan and put over medium high heat until the butter has melted. Turn down the heat just a little, and add the shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are tender about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another couple of minute until it is aromatic. Add the broccoli back into the pan and cook for a few more minutes to get everything nicely acquainted.
Add the crème fraîche and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to make sure it gets evenly incorporated and cook for a minute. Pour the broccoli mixture into a food processor or blender, and pulse until it’s in small bits (or your desired consistency). Put the sauce back in the pan and keep on the lowest setting possible until the pasta is ready. If it’s looking dry, add some pasta water until it gets nice and saucy (if you’re feeling daring, you could also add more crème fraîche).
When the pasta is nearly ready drain briefly (some water still sticking to the strands is good!) and mix into the sauce in the pan, heating both for about a minute. Serve with generous amounts of Parmesan.