Instant dinner: Donna Hay’s family-friendly, extra healthy pesto pasta

Pasta and pesto is our go-to for the mid-week dinner panic – it's fast and tasty but for an even healthier version why not try this cheesy pesto with a twist. Full of fresh greens and lots of flavour, this pasta dish will please the whole family.

Serves 4-6

2 small heads broccoli (500g), roughly chopped
80ml extra virgin olive oil
375g orecchiette (or your favourite pasta)
45g slivered almonds or pine nuts
40g basil leaves (the star of pesto)
25g mint leaves (a fresh twist)
25g flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
60ml lemon juice
80g finely grated Parmesan
sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Place the broccoli in a food processor and pulse until it resembles grains of rice (try 5 bursts of 3 seconds each).

Place half the oil in a large deep-sided non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring with a spatula, for 3-4 minutes or until it’s almost soft but still bright green. Remove from the heat.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, stirring once with a spatula, for 8-10 minutes or until just soft.


Place the almonds, basil, mint, parsley, lemon rind and juice, the Parmesan and the remaining oil in the food processor and process into a rough paste. Pour it into the pan with the broccoli, scraping the sides with a spatula.

Carefully reserve 125ml of the pasta’s cooking liquid. Place a colander in the sink and, wearing oven gloves, pour in the pasta to drain. Place the hot pasta and the reserved liquid into the pan with the pesto. Place over low heat, add some salt and pepper and stir until heated through and combined.

Divide the pasta between serving bowls and top with some extra Parmesan to serve, if you like.

Extracted from Basics to Brilliance Kids by Donna Hay (Harper360, approx €23).

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