Serve up a dose of nutritious broccoli with this easy (and cheesy!) Broccoli Pesto. It has a bright flavor from the inclusion of fresh lemon, requires no cooking (other than preparing the pasta) and is a perfect sauce for both pasta and pizza.

broccoli pesto on spaghetti in blue bowl with pink fork

Broccoli Pesto

Most kids, mine included, love pasta and pizza so I love to find small ways to make them with flavorful sauces that have veggies in the mix. This broccoli pesto, which has two cups of fresh broccoli plus a cup of vitamin-rich parsley, is our current new fav.

It’s easy to mix together and doesn’t require any cooking. Plus, it’s flavorful, yet not overpowering, to please the kids and the parents at the table.

The process for making this easy pesto recipe simply involves putting the ingredients into a food processor and processing them into a paste. That’s it! (Don’t have a food processor? You can use a blender instead.)

TIP: This sauce works well to make ahead and store in the fridge or freezer.

ingredients in broccoli pesto in bowls

Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at the simple ingredients you’ll need to make this pesto recipe.

  • Fresh broccoli florets: You can buy a bag of precut florets, or cut them off of a head of broccoli.
  • Flat-leaf parsley: You’ll want to use the leaves only, and discard the stems.
  • Fresh lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Roasted sunflower seeds, toasted almonds, or walnuts: I usually use sunflower seeds since they are affordable and have a nice flavor.

Ingredient Substitutions

If you don’t have or don’t love parsley, you can substitute in fresh basil or baby spinach.

This works best with fresh broccoli and it’s not a great place to use frozen broccoli.

Use sunflower seeds to make this nut-free, or another nut that you prefer.

Use nutritional yeast in place of the Parmesan cheese to make this dairy-free.

how to make broccoli pesto step by step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the process involved in making this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe.

  1. Add the broccoli and parsley to the food processor and grind roughly..
  2. Use a microplane to add the zest of a lemon. Cut in half and squeeze in the juice.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Blend well, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times until the mixture is a thick paste.

TIP: The texture of this pesto should resemble the classic kind and should be uniformly mixed together.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use broccoli pesto on?

In addition to using it on pasta, we love it in place of pizza sauce on pizza. You could also stir some into scrambled eggs or an omelet, add a tablespoon or two to a batch of homemade meatballs, stir some into a soup like minestrone for additional flavor, or even spread onto bread in a turkey sandwich or grilled cheese.

Can I give my 1 year old pesto?

Yes, you can give your 1 year old pesto. You can mix it with pasta or pizza as an easy, nutrient-rich sauce.

Can I make broccoli pesto without basil?

Yes, this recipe uses fresh broccoli and parsley. You can use basil if you like the flavor though.

twirl of spaghetti with broccoli pesto in blue bowl

Broccoli Pesto Pasta Recipe

To serve with pasta, toss with 1 pound of pasta prepared according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2-1 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the pasta when tossing with the pesto if it seems a little dry. (Mine usually isn’t, but just in case!)

You will need to use at least 1 cup of the pesto but can go up to 1 ½ cup depending on how much sauce you prefer.

How to Store

You can make this ahead of time and store it for future use, or store leftovers. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days before using. Or freeze in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.

Best Tips for Success

  • Dry the broccoli completely.
  • Scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times to make sure that the ingredients that get stuck on the sides of the bowl have a chance to be well blended.
  • Run the food processor for 60-90 seconds, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides, or until the seeds are pretty well blended. You don’t want there to be any large pieces of the seeds and this can take a little time. (It’s easy though!)
  • Toss well into noodles. If it seems a little dry, add a bit of reserved pasta water. (If you toss it well to coat the pasta, this shouldn’t be a problem, but just in case!)
  • You may also like my Spinach Pesto, Kale Pesto, Extra-Veggie Marinara Sauce, Boiled Broccoli, and Pesto Pizza.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it out, so please comment below to share.

This post was first published April 2019.

broccoli pesto on spaghetti in blue bowl with pink fork

Easy Broccoli Pesto (for Pasta and Pizza)

This will likely make enough for two meals. You can freeze the leftovers for a future meal. (This recipe was updated to improve the taste and method in April 2019.)
4.91 from 10 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 104kcal
Servings 16 (Makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups broccoli florets (raw)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves (lightly packed; or basil—this is optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest (grated on a microplane)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds (or toasted almonds or walnuts)

Instructions

  • Add the broccoli and parsley (if using) to the food processor and grind.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor.
  • Blend well, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times until the mixture is a thick paste, or for 60-90 seconds. It should be uniform and without large chunks of any one ingredient. If you still see whole seeds, keep going and add up to an additional ¼ cup olive oil.
  • Season to taste with salt if needed. (I usually don’t add additional salt but see what you think.)
  • To serve with pasta: Toss with 1 pound of pasta prepared according to the package directions. I start with ½ cup and add more as needed to coat the pasta.
  • To serve as pizza sauce: Spread about ½ cup over raw pizza dough and prepare as you would any other pizza.
  • Store leftover pesto in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 6 months. Break off a piece of the frozen pesto and stir into hot pasta and it will thaw and coat the pasta.

Notes

  • Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days before using. Or freeze in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.
  • Dry your broccoli completely.
  • Scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times to make sure that the ingredients that get stuck on the sides of the bowl have a chance to be well blended.
  • Run the food processor for 60-90 seconds, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides, or until the seeds are pretty well blended. You don’t want there to be any large pieces of the seeds and this can take a little time. 
  • Add up to an additional ¼ cup olive oil to make the pesto easy to stir.
  • Toss well into noodles, starting with ½ cup per pound. Add more as you like.
  • Use on pasta, as a pizza sauce, as a spread on sandwiches or grilled cheese, add a spoonful to soup like minestrone for additional flavor, or stir into scrambled eggs.

Nutrition

Calories: 104kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 85mg, Potassium: 83mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 414IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 49mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Tried this tonight and was pleasantly surprised – really enjoyed! Was a bit dubious about the broccoli being raw but it was really tasty. My rather rubbish food processor only just coped with the recipe though!

  2. Any suggestions for an alternative to sunflower seeds or tree nuts? My son is allergic to both. Would pumpkin seeds work?

  3. 5 stars
    This was really good! Yummy for the whole house. I made a few modifications based on what I had on hand:
    – I used frozen broccoli. It worked! I only blanched it very quickly to take the chill off. I did not cook it fully at all, so it was close to “raw” as possible.
    – I also added a small handful of fresh spinach because I didn’t have enough parsley.
    – I set some aside for our 2 year old. Then in the remaining batch, I added a little garlic and dried basil (what I had) to spice it up for Mom/Dad 🙂
    – We used walnuts. Delicious!

    1. You can leave it out and add a little additional salt. Some people like to use nutritional yeast instead for similar flavor too.

    1. There isn’t any—I updated the recipe and removed it since it didn’t store well. Sorry for any confusion!

  4. This looks very yummy, my two year old loves broccoli. How much does this make and can I freeze it? Thanks

    1. It makes enough for about 1 pound of pasta. I haven’t tried freezing it—it’s possible that it would break down a bit when thawed due to the yogurt so I would try to use it fresh if possible. I hope your little one likes it!