Pesto broccoli rice is a healthy side dish that features the bold flavors of fresh basil, garlic, and Parmesan to make the perfect pairing to chicken, fish, and more. Its light and fluffy texture makes it comparable to traditional rice, but in a lower calorie and low carb version.
Broccoli. Not much to say about broccoli, is there? It’s a healthy cruciferous vegetable that has a rep for not being that exciting. Except for that one night, when my college housemate microwave steamed a ton of broccoli approximately ten minutes before a bunch of people were coming over.
Picture us all running around the house opening windows and lighting scented candles to try and minimize that…unpleasant scent. Eeesh.
That memory stuck with me for awhile so broccoli went on the back burner as a veggie side dish for quite some time. But now it’s back! It’s just fine steamed (just preferably not before hosting a ton of people) and I adore roasted frozen broccoli, but sometimes I like to really jazz it up. Enter, pesto broccoli rice.
I’ve talked a lot about cauliflower rice – from parmesan pesto cauliflower rice to ginger turmeric cauliflower rice – but have been toying around with the idea of broccoli rice for awhile. Broccoli and cauliflower are relatively similar vegetables, with nutritious florets that lend themselves to a whole host of different recipes, so why wouldn’t a head of broccoli work just like a head of cauliflower in an alternative rice recipe?
Not so surprisingly, it does! The broccoli here is sauteed to reduce some of the raw cruciferous veggie flavor and ends up light and fluffy just like my favorite cauliflower rice recipes. Plus there’s pesto, and who doesn’t love that?
The base of this recipe is fresh broccoli. That’s easy enough. Then we need olive oil and the ingredients to make a basil pesto sauce.
The pesto part of the recipe isn’t the typical saucy pesto sauce we know and love on pasta. That would be a little gloopy on the small bits of riced broccoli. Instead I cut down the proportions of pesto ingredients so that whizzing everything in the food processor forms a moistened mixture of finely diced basil leaves, nuts, etc. The texture blends right in when combined with the broccoli.
Fresh basil leaves are a given for the pesto sauce, along with olive oil, nuts, grated cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
While pine nuts are traditional, there’s no getting around the fact that they’re EXPENSIVE. For recipes where they aren’t the *star* (like they are in pignoli cookies), I recommend just subbing in walnuts or almonds. And as for the grated cheese, your favorite variety works: Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, etc.
First break down the broccoli. Cut the florets from the broccoli head and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the broccoli is broken down into smaller bits, about rice size. Depending on the size of your food processor you may need to do this part in multiple batches.
Once riced, we’re going to saute the broccoli in a pan with some olive oil. This makes the broccoli a bit more tender and provides extra flavor. There are few things I can think of that wouldn’t benefit by a saute in olive oil.
Then it’s time to make the pesto in the food processor, which as discussed above won’t be an ultra creamy sauce. Stir this into the pan with the sauteed riced broccoli along with additional Parmesan cheese. Add extra lemon juice, salt, pepper, etc. in line with your tastes and you’re all ready to serve.
One thing I love about this pesto broccoli rice is that the pesto component blends right into the green color of the broccoli. I’m thinking this recipe would be a good one for trying to sneak broccoli past picky eaters. It’s not in its typical floret shape, and its green hue can be (deliciously) blamed on basil pesto. That’s a win-win in my book.
- Much like with cauliflower rice, this broccoli rice isn’t an exact dupe of rice. Rather it’s a healthier side dish option with a texture that’s not far off from rice.
- You’ll still be able to taste some of the broccoli flavor come through, but the pesto certainly helps mask it. Once the pesto has been combined with the broccoli, take a taste and add additional seasonings to make it to your liking.
- I like to serve this pesto broccoli rice with grilled chicken and fish, but the sky’s the limit.
Pesto Broccoli Rice
- 1 head of broccoli
- 5 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 6 tbsp grated Parmesan, divided
- 1 tbsp walnuts or pine nuts or almonds
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Cut florets from the head of broccoli and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the broccoli florets are broken up into tiny pieces resembling rice, and then add riced broccoli to a large mixing bowl. Repeat this step in batches until all of the broccoli is pulsed. Wipe out food processor to use later on.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. Add broccoli rice and stir. Cover the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until the broccoli has softened a bit. Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Add basil leaves, remaining 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) olive oil, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to the food processor and pulse until the basil and nuts are broken up into small pieces and the ingredients are combined.
- Fold the basil mixture and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan into the sauteed broccoli rice. Season with additional salt, pepper, lemon juice, Parmesan, etc. to your taste.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.