I don’t understand why I can’t be one of those people whose favorite food is vegetables. I’d take fruit, even. No, instead I take massive delight in breads, pastas, cheeses – everything supposedly not good for you in large quantities. Then I have to force myself to intake greens and fruits just to make sure I get them. They’re just not my thing.
At least I have deceiving dishes like this Arugula-Basil Pesto Pasta with Chickpeas and Broccoli to enjoy the carbs I love while slipping in the veggies I need.
People are always floored when they find out traditional pesto sauce really isn’t that good for you because – hello – it’s green. But its signature color is derived from basil, which is an herb…meaning it has zero nutritional value. Couple that with lots of oil, and perhaps cheese + nuts, and you can how pesto is a fatty wolf in a green sheep’s clothing.
My trick is to work the greens right into the pesto so we can bulk up its nutritional value. It adds a nice pepperiness, but is otherwise undetectable so my junk food-loving brain doesn’t realize what’s going on. I also add broccoli for more nutrients and heartiness, plus chickpeas for their protein.
And duh, there’s cheese. But we use the sharp, strong flavors of parmesan & asiago so that a little goes a long way. All in all, it’s packed with enough good stuff to stand on its own as dinner, works great as a side, or just heat up the leftovers for a perfect weekday lunch.
I may never be one to crave plain veggies, but I’ll certainly crave this veggie-packed Arugula-Basil Pesto Pasta with Chickpeas and Broccoli.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- You can add or sub spinach to the pesto as well.
- Pine nuts are pricey, so feel free to grab walnuts instead.
- Other great add-ins include tomatoes, red peppers, chicken, eggplant, and more. Get creative!
- This can be eaten chilled like a salad as well.
- I put my broccoli into the food processor with the pesto at the very end to give it a chop and make it a little smaller, but you can keep it as large chunks, if you prefer.
Arugula-Basil Pesto Pasta with Chickpeas & Broccoli
By The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 lb. whole wheat rotini
- 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
- 1 16-oz. can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 1 tbsp. fresh basil
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts
- 3 cups fresh arugula
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/3 cup shredded asiago, parmesan, romano or a blend of all 3, plus more for topping
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 12 oz. fresh steam-in-bag broccoli, cooked according to package direction
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rotini until al dente, or so that it still has a small bit of bite. BEFORE DRAINING, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the rest. Turn the heat off and return pasta to pan over the same burner (so we can use its residual heat).
- In a food processor, pulse the basil, nuts, arugula, and garlic together until they start to break down. Add the lemon juice, salt, cheese, and pepper then stream in the oil while pulsing. If it seems too thick, you can add a smidgen more oil, but remember, we’ll be adding the pasta water later on.
- Fold the pesto, broccoli, chickpeas, and pasta water into the pasta. Serve with extra parmesan.