Recipe Makeover–Broccoli Pesto Pasta

I used to make this Broccoli Pesto Pasta all the time before my son was born, and it somehow just fell off of my radar as I’ve searched for new recipes to make each week.  I recently rediscovered it and wanted to make it both kid-friendly and eating plan-friendly. Luckily, the original recipe is amazing and I really didn’t have much work to do!

If you have picky little ones that probably won’t eat pasta covered in green, it would be really easy to cook some frozen broccoli, puree it in the blender or food processor, and add it to your favorite tomato sauce.  You are still give some veggies to your kids, but masking it a little more covertly in the red sauce.

If you are really limiting carbs or want to make sure it’s gluten free, you can use spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini “zoodles” instead of pasta.

I stuck with most of the original recipe, but did make a few changes to fit my needs–a little more nutritious and a little quicker for busy moms!  For the grilled chicken I used frozen chopped grilled chicken that you can reheat in the microwave instead of cooking my own–much faster.

Below is the recipe I ended up with!

Broccoli Pesto Pasta (adapted from Annie’s Eats)

1 lb whole wheat penne pasta

1 small white onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp coconut oil

1 lb bag frozen broccoli, steam-in-bag variety

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Up to 1/2 cup low fat plain greek yogurt (1%-2% fat)

1 lb grilled chicken, shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt

Black pepper to taste


Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Once cooked, reserve 1.5 cups of pasta water and set aside.  Drain pasta and set aside.  Cook frozen broccoli according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add chopped onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add minced garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently as to not burn the garlic.

Transfer onion mixture to a large blender or food processor.  Add cooked broccoli.  Pulse until mixture is finely chopped.  Add in greek yogurt one or two tablespoons at a time, pulsing until fully incorporated and mixture is creamy. If necessary, add in reserved pasta water (1/2 cup at a time) until sauce reaches desired consistency. (Don’t add the water all at once–if you make it too watery there is no going back!)

Transfer cooked pasta back into the pot or into a serving bowl.  Add chicken, broccoli pesto, and black pepper to taste and mix to combine.


Serves 4 adults, or 2 with leftovers for lunch!



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