Pesto isn’t just made from basil. You can use any kind of greens – even, in this case, steamed broccoli. This is an old favorite for me, a way to turn an economical dish of steamed broccoli into a creamy yet nubby pesto to toss with pasta or cooked grains.
It has very little fat and dairy, aside from the feta. And lest you think this is a dieter’s compromise of a sauce, the broccoli is sauteed with onion, garlic and Italian parsley, and spun with lemon juice for a fantastically tangy and aromatic pasta dish. It’s fresh, easy and unexpected.
It also makes a quick and cheap meal – just a little broccoli, some herbs, pasta and pantry staples.
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Broccoli and Feta Pasta Sauce
1 pound broccoli, trimmed and cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 cup feta cheese, divided
1/4 cup water
Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam on the stove or in the microwave with the 2 tablespoons of water. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook the onion and garlic until they just begin to soften, and then add the broccoli. Cook for several minutes or until the onion turns translucent. Add the parsley, and cook until it’s well-wilted. Pour in the lemon juice and simmer for about 2 minutes.
Transfer to a blender and add 1/4 cup of the feta cheese and the 1/4 cup water. Puree until smooth, adding a drizzle of olive oil and a little more water if it sticks and turns to a lump. Puree until as smooth or chunky as you prefer.
Taste and add any necessary additional salt and pepper. Serve with a good ridged pasta, such as rotini, and top off with the rest of the feta.
Yield: 4 servings.