Back in 2015, while I was on Weight Watchers, I was obsessed with developing a pesto that had less oil and more nutritional value and still satisfied my craving for the original. Although the dish has admittedly strayed from its original health-conscious intent, it still ticks the nutritional-value box, and being far from a broccoli lover, it gets me to, well, finish my broccoli. The texture should mirror the same rich, silky quality you get from Genovese pesto, but it has a sweetness, both from the pistachios and the broccoli; a slight spiciness, thanks to the inclusion of broccoli rabe leaves; and a vegetal quality that, paired with pillowy ricotta gnocchi, I find both unexpected and downright irresistible.
Swap option: Sicilian pistachios are truly in a league of their own, but if you don't have access to them, you can substitute regular pistachios to finish.
- 1¼ cups ricotta
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup semolina flour
- 3/4 cup 00 flour
- 3 cups (about 1 head) broccoli florets
- 2½ ounces broccoli rabe, leaves and florets separated
- 1 cup tightly packed basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 clove garlic
- 1 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1/4 cup raw pistachios, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
- salt, to taste
- 1 batch ricotta gnocchi dough (recipe above)
- 2/3 cup chopped raw Sicilian pistachios
- 2/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
- 20-25 small basil leaves
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the gnocchi:1.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmigiano and stir until well-mixed. Add the eggs, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition until thoroughly combined. In a medium bowl, combine the semolina and 00 flour and stir until fully integrated.2.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture with a rubber spatula, using broad strokes to smear and fold the mixtures together. Keep folding until the mixture is integrated but be careful not to overwork the dough. It should not appear entirely smooth and uniform like a traditional pasta dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. This makes it easier to roll the gnocchi.3.
Lightly dust a wooden work surface with 00 flour. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina.4.
Take a small handful of dough, place it on your prepared work surface, and use your hands to gently roll it into a rope roughly 3/4 inch in diameter. For light gnocchi, you must have a light touch. If the dough is sticky and difficult to roll, lightly dust your hands with 00 flour, taking care not to use much. Repeat with the remaining dough. Using your knife or bench scraper, cut the ropes into 1-inch pieces.5.
Lightly dust a wooden gnocchi board or the back of a fork with 00 flour. Press a piece of the dough with your thumb into the board or back of the fork, dragging it down the surface while turning your thumb out and away from your body. The gnocchi should curl into shell-like shapes, with the board or fork giving it a finely ribbed exterior that will cling well to sauce.6.
Repeat with the remaining pieces. As the gnocchi are formed, place them, ribbed-side up, on the prepared sheet pan.7.
Cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours before cooking.
For the pesto:1.
Break the broccoli florets into 1/2-inch pieces.2.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water. Prepare a salted ice-water bath and set a colander in it. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.3.
Drop the broccoli florets into the boiling water and blanch until tender but not soft and still vibrantly green, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the florets to the ice-water bath. Transfer the florets to the paper towels to drain.4.
Repeat with the broccoli rabe florets, reserving the leaves. Discard the boiling water and reserve the ice-water bath.5.
Pat the broccoli and broccoli rabe florets dry with the paper towels to remove all the excess water. Set aside.6.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Lightly salt the water. Drop the basil and broccoli rabe leaves into the boiling water and blanch until tender but still vibrantly green, about 15 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the basil and broccoli leaves to the ice-water bath. Remove from the ice-water bath, place in a kitchen towel, and squeeze to remove all the excess water.7.
Place the basil and broccoli rabe leaves in a blender with the water, add the garlic, and blend on high speed to make a very smooth puree. If the mixture is too thick to puree, add a small amount of water to loosen. Set aside.8.
Add the broccoli and broccoli rabe to the bowl of a food processor in batches and pulse to puree until smooth.9.
Place the broccoli mixture in a large bowl. Add the basil puree, olive oil, pistachios, Parmigiano and Pecorino. Mix well to combine and season with salt to taste.10.
Measure out 2 cups pesto and set aside. Transfer the remainder to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for another use.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water.2.
Add the gnocchi to the water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they float to the top of the pot.3.
While the gnocchi are cooking, place a large sauté pan over very low heat. Add the pesto and 1 to 2 ladles (1/4 to 1/2 cup) pasta cooking water and stir gently to combine. If it overheats, you will lose the vibrant color quickly, so keep an eye on it.4.
Using a spider or pasta basket, remove the pasta from the pot and transfer to the sauté pan. Keep the pan over low heat and gently toss for 30 seconds to 1 minute to marry the pasta and the sauce. If the sauce begins to tighten, add a splash more pasta cooking water to loosen and continue tossing.5.
Divide into bowls and garnish with the chopped pistachios, Pecorino, basil and pepper, to taste.