Pasta with Broccoli Cream Pesto

Yet another success from Smitten Kitchen. Lately a lot of my pasta sauces have subsisted with food processed vegetables …

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  • ½ pound broccoli
  • ½ pound dried spaghetti (I used orecchiette)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or, more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • A heap of grated parmesan (about ½ cup), to serve
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta.
  2. Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stems with a vegetable peeler (I do this so that they cook quickly, plus, I prefer their taste without the tough stem skin.) and slice them into ½-inch segments.
  3. Use your pot of future pasta water to steam (by suspending a mesh strainer over your pasta pot and covering it with a lid for 5 to 6 minutes)) or par-boil (for 3 to 5 minutes) your broccoli florets and stems until just tender, then drain if needed and set them aside.
  4. Add pasta to water and cook until al dente, or about one minute less than fully cooked. Before draining pasta, reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain pasta.
  5. Wipe out pot so that you can use it again. In the bottom of pot, melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sauteing it until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add steamed broccoli, salt and red or black pepper and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour cream over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.
  6. Transfer broccoli mixture and all of its creamy bits at the bottom of the pan to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it’s finely chopped and a little sauce. Don’t worry if it looks dry; that reserved pasta water will give it the sauciness it needs in a minute. (Theoretically, one could also use an immersion blender here inside their pot to make the broccoli sauce, but it might be a bit messy with all of the chunks and small bits.)
  7. Add the broccoli sauce back to the pot with the drained spaghetti and a splash or two of the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing the mixture so that it evenly coats. Add more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or pepper, and scoop into a serving bowl. Shower spaghetti with grated parmesan and dig in.
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