Broccoli, asparagus and spinach pasta with creamy pesto

Broccoli pasta is probably one of my favourite midweek meals – we eat some kind of variant on it most weeks. I just love the fact that the broccoli cooks along with the pasta in salted boiling water, making it super quick and easy. Sometimes I fry off a tin of anchovies (along with the olive oil they come in) and some sliced garlic (plus chilli flakes if it’s for for grown ups) until softened but not browned, then toss this simple sauce over the pasta and broccoli, finishing with loads of parmesan. Other times I simply add some soft cheese to the cooked broccoli and pasta, with a little salt and pepper.

In this instance the sauce is simply some pesto (great if you want to make it homemade – it is super easy, after all – but also fine if you want to use shop bought) with a little creme fraiche to make it even saucier, and creamy too.

The veggies here are broccoli, of course, plus chopped up asparagus as it’s seasonal, with a large handful of spinach thrown in at the end to wilt in the finished dish. But you could use cauliflower florets instead of broccoli, or how about throwing in some frozen peas for the last few minutes of pasta cooking time, or what about some very thinly peeled, raw courgette, which wilts down so nicely in hot pasta.

Whichever veggies you choose, the secret here is the creamy pesto. We all know that kids love pesto, and creamy pesto is extra delicious – so you have a much better chance of them consuming vegetables if they are dressed in this gorgeous green sauce. And if they do happen to leave a few saucy veggies, then it’s all the more for you! Yay!

Serves: 4 
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 12 minutes

Ingredients: 
300g wholewheat penne
1 head of broccoli, florets and stalk cut into same width of the asparagus spears
1 bunch of asparagus, stalky bits at the bottom snapped off, and cut into diagonal 1 inch pieces
1 handful of spinach
3 tablespoons of creme fraiche
1 jar of good quality pesto OR…

To make fresh pesto:  
100g pine nuts, toasted if you have time
50g basil
100g parmesan
1/2 clove garlic
About 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions: 

  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil. Add some salt to it. 
  2. Whilst that is heating up, make the pesto. Whizz up the ingredients until they are to your liking. 
  3. Add the pasta to boiling water. After a few minutes, add the broccoli and asparagus. 
  4. Once they are cooked, but still al dente, reserve a mug of cooking water to one side, and drain. Add the pesto and the creme fraiche to the pasta and veg. 
  5. Tip in the spinach at this stage. Splash a little pasta water too. Stir well and then pop the lid back on for a few minutes so the spinach can wilt and the pasta can soak up the sauce.  
  6. Stir well again and serve with more parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 
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