Super Sneaky Spinach & Basil Pesto with Broccoli Breadcrumbs

Spinach Broccoli Pesto
I know I gripe a lot about the weather in LA this time of year but even I had to admit that last weekend was just about perfect.  We took a spur-0f-the moment Sunday drive to a destination we’d never been to before and it ended up being the perfect place, too.  Don’t you love it when that happens?

abalone cove

We had Abalone Cove mostly to ourselves. There was a very slight chill in the air, so we started out with sweaters but by the time we left a few hours later O was down to her underwear and Sorin had taken a swim in the ocean.


The first thing O did was plunk down in the sand and start drawing designs, completely and totally happy. She moved on to chasing seagulls, then squealing as the waves chased her up the shore, followed by harassing hermit crabs and sea anemones in the tide pools. We ate lunch on a log. We walked barefoot.




The summerish weather down here makes it feel like basil pesto is still a food that’s in season. Even if you’re buried in snow right now you can probably still find basil at the grocery store, so really, there’s no reason to limit pesto to summertime. I’m all for eating seasonally, but I’m even more in favor of eating as much pesto as possible.  Especially since O loves it and it’s the main way I get some dark greens into her diet. Spinach, mostly. I find that kale makes pesto smell a little funky.  Spinach, on the other hand, you hardly notice at all.

Spinach Pesto with Broccoli Breadcrumbs
Crunchy broccoli bread crumbs top this bowl of gorgeous green pasta. The original recipe comes from 101 Cookbooks but the inspiration for adding the green breadcrumbs to my pesto pasta was the  “anything plus broccoli” formula on Dinner, A Love Story.  Based on this formula, and the sneaky addition of spinach to the pesto, I declare this bowl of pasta totally, completely healthy. It’s a meal capable of erasing all guilt when it seems like the other main food groups in your child’s diet are goldfish crackers and those sugary dried fruit bars the evil people at Trader Joe’s display right by the register at child eye level.

Spinach & Basil Pesto with Broccoli Breadcrumbs

This makes about 1 cup of pesto, enough to generously cover 1/2 pound of pasta. In our house, this translates into 4 or 5 servings.

I use raw pumpkin seeds in pesto now because I think they taste good, I like the nutrients they add and I have a large, bottomless bag in my fridge that I’ve been trying to finish. You can use nuts instead or raw sunflower seeds or if you have allergies in your house, skip it completely.


1/2 pound pasta

Broccoli Breadcrumbs
1 slice whole wheat bread, stale or dried out in the oven (see below)
1 small head of broccoli (about the size of your palm), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
A large handful raw baby spinach, plus more to taste


Preheat oven to 375 F

If your slice of bread isn’t already stale, put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until it’s just about hard enough to knock against the counter.

No, that wrinkly hand isn't my 90-year-old grandmother's, it's mine. What the ?!

No, that wrinkly hand isn’t my 90-year-old grandmother’s, it’s mine. What the ?!

Crumble the bread into a few pieces then blend it in a food processor with the broccoli, olive oil and salt until the texture is finely chopped, like bread crumbs. Don’t blend too long or the texture will move past crumbly into mushy. Spread the broccoli breadcrumbs out on a large baking sheet, in a thin layer so they will get crispy. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until lightly browned and crunchy.

My breadcrumbs got a bit too brown and crunchy but were still good

My breadcrumbs got a bit too brown and crunchy but were still good

Get your pot of water boiling to cook the pasta.

Wipe out the food processor and combine the pumpkin seeds and garlic. Blend until very finely chopped. Add the cheeses, basil and spinach. With the blade running, drizzle in the olive oil until just combined. Taste the pesto. I usually add more spinach at this point and keep blending and adding as much spinach as I can get away with, and still have the consistency and flavor I want.

Cook your pasta, drain, and toss with the pesto. Top each serving with broccoli breadcrumbs. This pasta can be served warm, but we tend to like it better cold. It’s great for school lunches.


1 Comment

Filed under Main Course

One response to “Super Sneaky Spinach & Basil Pesto with Broccoli Breadcrumbs

  1. This strikes me as primarily a spring time dish, but it looks good enough that I’d try it this fall.

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