Flatbreads with Broccoli Rabe Pesto
As you can tell, I’m still on a broccoli rabe kick. Though it’s available year-round, winter is when this bitter, leafy green vegetable tastes best–and when I crave it the most. Usually I just sauté it in some garlic and olive oil, but recently I decided to try making pesto out of it. I love fresh basil pesto in the summer–its bright green color, intense garlicky-herb-Parmesan flavor, and its versatility. You can put it on pizza, drizzle on a salad, stir into soup, or toss with pasta. But given basil’s not in season, I thought broccoli rabe would be a perfect substitute.
As long as you have a blender, food processor, or even an immersion blender, this recipe is a piece of cake. Blanch the rabe (quickly boil until bright green, plunge into ice water to stop the cooking) then throw it in a blender with the usual pesto ingredients: garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil. I added a few red pepper flakes and some fresh lemon juice for an added kick, and of course salt and pepper (which, I found you need to use quite a lot of). You can play around with this recipe if you like–try swapping the pine nuts for walnuts or pistachios, or adding more lemon or red pepper. Or you can make a vegan version by eliminating the Parmesan (though you'll have to play around with the proportions...I've heard you can add nutritional yeast as a substitute).
Once you have your pesto made (which only takes 15 minutes or so), you can keep it in the fridge to use in all sorts of dishes. Try dolloping it on crostini with Parmesan shavings for a rustic appetizer. Or you can make these fantastic flatbread pizzas (recipe below), topped with sausage and feta cheese.
Or, add the broccoli rabe pesto to your favorite pasta: boil the pasta according to the package instructions, drain, and save about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Depending on how many people you are feeding, add 1/4 cup or so of the pesto to the pasta, along with some of the cooking water, and toss together–you'll have an instant sauce! I love adding in some sausage to the rabe pesto pasta or if I want a vegetarian dish, I'll just top with some freshly grated Parmesan, roasted grape tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts. Not only is this so easy and delicious, it's a great way to sneak some extra vegetables into your diet...which is always a good thing!
BROCCOLI RABE PESTOMakes about 2 cups
1 bunch broccoli rabe, woody ends removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup ground Parmesan (feel free to use more if you like)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and place it next to the pot.
Working in batches, boil the broccoli rabe for 3 to 4 minutes or until bright green and softened. Plunge instantly into the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and squeeze dry.
Roughly chop the rabe and add to a blender or food processor (if using an immersion blender, just put all ingredients in a large bowl). Add the garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice and pulse several times to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until it reaches the desired consistency. (It should be sort of like a thick sauce). Season generously with salt and pepper–I found I needed over 1 tsp of salt and about 1/2 tsp pepper. Just be sure to taste and adjust as you go.)
Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator–it should last for 3 to 4 days.
FLATBREAD PIZZAS WITH BROCCOLI RABE PESTO, SAUSAGE, AND FETAMakes 4
4 whole-wheat flatbreads (or naan breads)
Broccoli rabe pesto (recipe above)
2 nitrate-free sausages (either pre-cooked or raw, made from lamb, chicken, duck, or pork)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half (optional)
Crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the flatbreads on a baking sheet. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the pesto on each flatbread, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the edges.
If you are using pre-cooked sausage, slice it and arrange the pieces over the pesto. If you are using raw sausage, cook it for 7-8 minutes on the stove top and add the cooked sausage to the pizza. (If you are vegetarian, eliminate the sausage and substitute for grape tomatoes). Sprinkle each pizza with a couple tablespoons of crumbled feta.
Drizzle each pizza with a bit of olive oil and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the crust is brown and the cheese is beginning to melt. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice into pieces and serve.
I love serving this with a wintry salad of arugula, radicchio, endive, and thinly sliced fennel with a citrus vinaigrette.