Thursday, 6 March 2014

Roasted Broccoli Pesto {lightened up, vegan, healthy, gluten-free}

Pesto is one of my favourites and I am always looking for ways to make it lighter, more nutritious, and tastier - let's just say this Roasted Broccoli Pesto exceeded my expectations. The roasted broccoli adds a dimension to this pesto that is unmistakably flavourful, slightly nutty as well as contrasting the taste of the fresh basil and creamy pine nuts quite perfectly if you ask me. I seriously thought about calling this lightened up pesto The Get your Greens Pesto but I am not sure if that sounds as appealing or captures how awesome this pesto really tastes. This pesto is jam packed with roasted broccoli, fragrant basil, some raw spinach and even an avocado in order to lighten this pesto up in major ways. 

To be honest, I might be a bit bias because broccoli has always been my favourite vegetable since as long as I can remember. I used to imagine I was a giant gobbling up these tasty little broccoli trees I'd frequently find scattered across my dinner plate. Broccoli is such an old favourite of mine, that as a kid I would happily eat up an entire plate of broccoli to myself for dinner at the amusement of the adults around me.

J and I have been enjoying this amazing pesto all week - on pasta, as an incredible dipspread onto baked sweet potatoes, sauteed into vegetables as well as [my personal favourite] smeared on crunchy hearty bread, topped off with some fresh tomatoes, olive oil, S & P and baked into what just might be the best warm tomato sandwich ever. No really, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. This pesto keeps well in the fridge for about a week or you can always freeze some and save it for later if you don't think you can finish the heaping 3 cups of pesto this recipe makes within a week.

Another thing I love about this recipe is that it is pretty much foolproofMake this pesto your own and feel free to add your own "special" ingredients as you taste and go along but try not to go to crazy with the extras and cover up the wonderful taste of the roasted broccoli and pine nuts. As long as you follow the general guidelines you can tweak this recipe as you see fit. The first time I made this, I added some sundried tomatoes as well as a dash of cayenne and Tabasco at the last minute for a bit of a kick but these ingredients are 100% optional. The second time I whipped this up in a pinch and kept it simple by leaving out all the optional ingredients. Both ways are fantastic smeared on basically anything. As mentioned, I used avocado in this sauce as an oil replacement which you can also easily replace with olive oil if you are not looking to lighten this sauce up significantly [to keep in mind: One medium sized avocado is around 320 calories or the equivalent 3/4 cup of olive oil is around 1,300]. The spinach is also technically an optional ingredient because it adds tons of nutrients without altering the flavour or texture of the pesto itself. The broccoli can seem a bit tough to process at first but adding a smidgen of water or olive oil by the tbsp ensures this Roasted Broccoli Pesto turns out tantalizingly tasty and super creamy. I hope that you enjoy this yummy and healthy pesto as much as we've been - it won't be long until this pesto starts calling my name again...

Wishing you a great week  Let me know what you think or if you try this out in the comments, I love hearing your feedback!

And, don't forget to check out my new "About" page :D

Recipe - Roasted Broccoli Pesto

Makes 3 heaping cups of Pesto; Prep. time 25 minutes.; 12 servings (1/4 cup per serving)

Note: This roasted broccoli pesto is lightened up in two ways by using an avocado instead of olive oil and also by adding water by the tbsp instead of oil to get the ingredients processing smoothly in the food processor. Feel free to sub oil (around 1/2 - 3/4 cup + couple tablespoons) for both of these ingredients if you prefer. The spinach is also an optional [yet very nutritious!] ingredient that does not alter the taste of the pesto. Pine nuts and Cashews work great in this sauce because they are a "creamier" nut - I would not recommend subbing with another nut that might be more difficult to process in the food processor.  This pesto will last for up to a week in the fridge in a sealed container. Feel free to freeze some of the pesto to enjoy at a later time. 


  • 3.5 cups broccoli (choped up in small pieces)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or cashews (*roasted chickpeas for a nut-free option)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil (for roasted broccoli)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 ripe avocado (very soft)
  • 1 lemon juiced (4-5 tbsp juice *use half of juice before adding broccoli and nuts and half after)
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 2-3 tbsp water or oil by the tbsp (see note)
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste 

  • Optional Ingredients 
  • 1 big handful of spinach 
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • Tabasco 
  • Cayenne Pepper 

      • Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425f / 220c
  2. Disperse chopped up broccoli on baking sheet. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil evenly over broccoli and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 - 12 minutes in the oven until broccoli is beginning to blacken a bit. Half way through (around 6 minutes in) add the pine nuts onto the baking sheet, evenly dispersed, and roast for 7 minutes until they are turning slightly golden brown.
  3. While the broccoli and pine nuts are roasting in the oven, process garlic, avocado, juice from half a lemon (3 tbsps) and basil in a food processor. The ingredients will start to slowly break down and become slightly creamy.
  4. Take the roasted broccoli and pine nuts out of the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the roasted pine nuts to the food processor and process until you have a creamy mixture. Add the roasted broccoli a few pieces at a time, allowing the broccoli to process a bit before adding more broccoli. Add the juice from the other half of the lemon to help process the broccoli into the pesto mixture. Continue to pulse the roasted broccoli and add water by the tbsp until you have a resulting creamy, fragrant pesto. 
  5. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add optional ingredients. If you are adding spinach you will need to process with a couple more tablespoons of water or olive oil.
  6. Devour, Share and Enjoy :)

Nutritional Benefits: A healthy dose of healthy fats,  iron, vitamin A, C and potassium! 

Let's Chat: What's your favourite kind of pasta sauce? 

If this is your first time stopping by Ceara's Kitchen, Let's keep in touch: Find me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter!

Leave a message via Facebook 

Share the Love Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email This Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr


  1. I am sure that I would love this dip! I love the addition of avocado to make it extra creamy.

    1. Thanks Cara! The avocado makes it so creamy which is a must for me with everything spreadable or that should be smothered into a hearty pasta dish :D Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I just imagine dipping carrots, celery and salty things into this dip! I love the color and I love how you lightened up, that way I can have my chips and dip without the guilt!

    1. You are so right - salty things would taste great dipped in this [why have I not thought of that?!] It's all about the chips and dip without the guilt especially if you're like me and have a bit of a salt (and sweet haha) tooth haha! :D

  3. I seriously loooove everything about this recipe! Roasted broccoli? Check! Pesto? Check! Avocado and bonus spinach? Double-check!!! Plus all the encouragement to swap things out and customize (sun-dried tomatoes??? Yum!!!). Can't Pin this fast enough! :D Oh - and regarding your question about my fave kind of pasta sauce? Ummmmm ... pretty much any and all! I just love pasta (whole wheat, of course! :D).

    1. Thank you so much Shelley for your kind words and the pin!! :D I am still drooling over your Almond Joy Oatmeal and I am very excited to try it next week for what looks like the most comforting and yummy breaky ever :D Haha, I hear you on the pasta - I could eat it every night for dinner and be one very happy clam!