Broccoli Pesto Pasta

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We’re not saying you should lie to your dinner guests, but we do have a penchant for secret ingredients—you know, the ones that surprise and delight while adding a certain je ne sais quoi to a dish. That’s the idea behind Kelly Senyei’s The Secret Ingredient Cookbook and this broccoli pesto pasta.

“Pesto is one food that everyone in my house can agree on,” Senyei writes. “Even my toddler boys gobble up this pesto pasta by the bowlful because there’s not a trace of broccoli flavor in sight.”

As it turns out, this dish is hiding more than one secret ingredient: Green olives contribute both a bright green color and briny, salty flavor, while fresh basil adds an herby punch. The pasta can be served warm, room temp or chilled, making it a year-round wonder.

Excerpted from The Secret Ingredient Cookbook © 2021 by Kelly Senyei. Photography © 2021 by Robert Bredvad. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Any-Green Pesto


Kosher salt, as needed

2 cups broccoli florets

1 pound uncooked pasta, such as rigatoni or penne

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 cup green olives, pitted

2 cups fresh basil leaves

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to a blender.

2. Bring the water back to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes, or according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the pine nuts, moving the nuts around, until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the pine nuts to the blender, along with the olives, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pepper and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Pulse until combined.

5. With the blender running, stream in the olive oil, stopping the blender and scraping down the side as needed, until the pesto is pureed. Taste and season with salt and additional pepper.

6. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta with your desired amount of pesto, thinning it with additional reserved pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time as needed.

Note: Leftover pesto? Pour it into ice cube trays, then cover securely with plastic wrap and freeze. When ready to serve, pop out a pesto cube or two and defrost in the microwave or on the stovetop with your pasta of choice.

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