If there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that my palate’s love of creamy pasta is at odds with my stomach’s distaste for both dairy and gluten. Give me a plate of spaghetti boscaiola and I will bloat to button-popping proportions faster than you can say, “where’s the garlic bread?” It’s this sad reality (plus a penchant for finding healthy substitutes for my favourite foods) that encouraged me to spend hours in the kitchen concocting a super-clean alternative to pesto pasta—a beloved indulgence.
A traditional pesto pasta was once high on my naughty list, but several kitchen experiments (and Pinterest deep dives) led me to discover what I believe is the perfect healthy alternative. It has all the flavour and none of the guilt or bloat. “How is that even possible?” I can almost hear you asking. Well, the secret lies in the addition of a couple of surprising ingredients. By subbing out cream for avocado and a head of broccoli, and replacing gluten-packed pasta with spiralised zucchini, I’ve come up with a delicious mid-week dinner that doesn’t cost a week’s rent in exotic ingredients.
Better yet, the addition of vegetables both bulks up the nutritional content of your pasta and adds all-important flavour.
Keep scrolling for your new staple weeknight dinner.
Creamy Broccoli Pesto Pasta
One large head of broccoli
One bunch of basil
Juice of half a lemon
Small handful of pine nuts
One large (or two small) avocados
One tbps. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic (or more, to taste)
¼ cup grated parmesan (omit for a dairy-free sauce)
Extra parmesan, to serve
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to season
Pasta of choice (I use zucchini noodles, but gluten-free pasta works, too)
- Chop and steam broccoli until really soft.
- Let broccoli cool for 5 minutes, then add to food processor with all other ingredients, except pasta.
- Pulse until smooth and creamy. (Or less, if you’d prefer a chunky sauce.) Add a drizzle of water or oil to help it blend smoothly, if necessary.
- Boil your pasta as per packet instructions, or, if using zoodles, saute lightly in a frying pan.
- Add your pasta to sauce, and stir through. Return to stovetop to heat through, if needed.
- Serve with salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of extra parmesan.
Next up: Looking for more zoodle recipes? We love this delicious green tea version from Katie at the Kitchen Door.