Orecchiette with Broccoli Pesto and Ham


A Quick and Tasty Pasta Dinner for the Wintertime (or Anytime at all!)

pasta closeup

The winter can be a challenging time of year to make sure we get all of our fruits and veggies in our diets. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are available year round, but the challenge can be finding new and interesting ways to use them!

Here’s one simple idea: substitute broccoli for fresh garden herbs like basil to make a “pesto” sauce for pasta. This recipes makes use of the entire broccoli head as well – stalks and flowerettes – so that nothing gets wasted. It also has a uniquely rich flavor from the use of the semi-soft sheepsmilk cheese from Greece known as Manouri. Of course, if Manouri is not available you can use feta, which is available at just about every supermarket or cheese shop today.

This recipe also makes use of a small amount of cooked ham to give it a little more sustenance, so you can prepare it with leftovers to stretch that last bit of meat. I hope you’ll give my recipe that follows a try; I bet if you will it may become a family favorite and one that everyone will ask how to make for themselves!

Orecchiette with Broccoli Pesto and Ham – My Recipe

Of course, if you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish you can leave out the ham entirely – it will still make for a delicious sauce. You can try using the Broccoli Pesto in other ways as well: as a sandwich spread, as a topping for toasted crostini, or even mixed into a chicken salad to give it a little extra flavor and “veggie goodness”!

Serves: 6
Cooking time: 30 minutes

16 ounces Orecchiette pasta
2 pounds broccoli (about 3 whole small heads)
6 ounces cooked smoked ham, diced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces Manouri (or Feta) cheese
5 or 6 large fresh basil leaves
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


1. Fill two large pots with water, add salt to both and bring them to a boil.

2. Wash the broccoli and separate flowerettes from stalks and stem. Chop the stems and drop them into one of the pots of boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes.


3. Put the cooked broccoli stems, basil leaves and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small food processor or chopper. Puree and season with salt and pepper to taste.


4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the diced ham and cook until warmed through and slightly crisped.

5. Drop the Orecchiette and uncooked broccoli flowerettes into the other pot of salted water and cook until pasta is al dente. Drain and return to the pot.


6. Add the ham, cheese, and broccoli stem sauce to the pot with the pasta; stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and ground pepper as necessary.

7. Serve pasta immediately and enjoy!

Orecchiette Pesto

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