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Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Pesto| pes.to |
a sauce made of fresh basil, garlic, oil, pine nuts, and grated cheese.

Well we are breaking the rules here. Thats right this broccoli rabe pesto has NO basil. Why? Well first it doesn’t need it, second I’m tired of buying basil with the intentions of making pesto, and it goes bad the next day. Before you say that you don’t need another pesto recipe, that your traditional basil pesto is all that you need, trust me this is different. This pesto is earthy, slightly bitter (in a good way), bright and citrusy from a splash of lemon, with extremely deep flavor. While my favorite pesto will always be my Spinach Pesto, this broccoli rabe pesto gives it a run for its money.

spoon of broccoli rabe pesto

What You’ll Need for Broccoli Rabe Pesto

  • Broccoli Rabe– Just the leaves here! When shopping for broccoli rabe look for a bunch with a good amount of dark green leaves (avoid any bunches with yellow). This does not mean those florets and steams are going to go to waste. Check out my Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pasta for a great quick dish to use the rest of the greens.
  • Pine nuts – Toasted in a frying pan for a few minutes until brown and super nutty.
  • Pecorino Romano – Pecorino has a stronger more tangy flavor than Parmesan which complements the bitter greens. Just remember always freshly grated.
  • EVOO – The backbone of this pesto. Use a really good EVOO for best flavor.
  • Chili Flakes
  • Lemon – Yes, this pesto needs lemon juice. Why? Lemon pairs back the bitter flavor of the broccoli rabe. While we want to celebrate this bitter flavor we do want to subdue it just a tad.
spaghetti with broccoli rabe pesto

What can I use this pesto for?

Just about anything. Below are some of my favorite avenues for this broccoli rabe pesto. Like traditional pesto, it does not need to be cooked. Let the heat from either pasta, toast, or whatever else you are pairing it with warm the pesto.

  • Pasta – Duh! This is probably my first choice. Add a few tablespoons of pesto, about 1/4th of a cup of salty pasta water and this becomes a fantastic sauce. Go cold and add a dollop of this pesto to pasta salad.
  • Toast– Because it is on the thicker side this pesto would be an amazing base for toast. Toast up a piece of sourdough, slather a thin layer of pesto, and top it off with a runny fried egg.
  • Pizza or Focaccia Topping
  • Sandwich Spread – Move over mayo!
spaghetti with broccoli rabe pesto

Store this pesto in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 1 – 1 1/2 weeks. Or store it in the freezer for up to a month.

Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Print Recipe
An earthy, slightly bitter pesto with a splash of citrus.
Prep Time 10 minutes


  • 1 Food Processor


  • 3-4 cups broccoli rabe leaves 1 bunch worth, pick out steams and florets
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup pecorino romano cheese grated approx 90 grams
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil EVOO
  • 1/2 tsp salt kosher


  • In a dry frying pan over low heat toast the pine nuts until golden brown ( but not burnt). Approx 5 minutes. Remove from the stove and place on the side for a few minutes to cool.
  • In a food processor pulse garlic, cooled pine nuts, cheese, and chili flakes.
  • Add broccoli rabe leaves and pulse to combine.
  • On high speed add in the lemon juice and olive oil until thick paste. (if you desire a thinner more runny consistency add more olive oil, however if you are opting for pasta keep it thick). Add salt. Enjoy!

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