Pasta with Pestocado (Avocado Pesto) & Broccoli

According to America’s Test Kitchen, Pestocado is the “hottest new ‘it’ sauce.” Avocado replaces the cheese in this full-flavored pesto. It was creamy and delicious.

The recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook, More Mediterranean, via americastestkitchen.com. I modified the method and used linguine fini, Meyer lemon, walnuts, and two garlic cloves. Easy and great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 T table salt, for cooking broccoli and pasta
  • 12 to 16 ounces broccoli, florets cut into 1-inch pieces, stalks peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound spaghettini, or spaghetti
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios or walnuts, toasted and chopped, divided
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 tsp toasted fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice (I used Meyer lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat an oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon table salt and broccoli stalks and cook for 1 minute. Add florets and cook until stalks and florets are tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Using slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to colander set over bowl (do not discard boiling water). Let broccoli drain and cool slightly, about 5 minutes; set aside.
  4. Add pasta to reserved boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.
  5. Process 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, avocado, basil, 1/4 cup chopped nuts, anchovies, fennel seeds, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and coarse salt in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. With processor running, slowly add oil until incorporated, about 15 seconds.
  7. Add pesto to pasta in pot and toss until sauce evenly coats pasta, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed.
  8. Stir in remaining broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pistachios. Garnish with fresh basil and drizzle with extra oil, as desired. Serve.

Venetian Rice & Peas (Risi e Bisi)

In Venice, this classic dish is traditionally served on April 25th, St. Mark’s Day. This version was adapted from Michela Tasca, owner of Ca’ de Memi Farm and Bed and Breakfast in Piombino Dese, outside of Venice, Italy, via 177MilkStreet.com, contributed by Diane Unger.

The recipe is similar to risotto in its cooking method and because it incorporates arborio rice, but this dish is much more fluid and soupy. It is definitely for pea lovers! Whole peas and puréed peas are mixed into the creamy rice. I loved the vibrant, beautiful color of the finished dish.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, half thinly sliced and half finely chopped
  • 1 medium celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup frozen, 1 cup thawed & at room temperature)
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cubed or finely chopped (I used uncured pancetta)
  • 4 T salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, divided
  • 1 cup arborio or vialone nano rice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. In a medium pot, combine the carrot, sliced onion (reserve the chopped onion), celery, fennel seeds, stock (or broth), and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables have softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, draining as much of the liquid as possible. (It’s okay if some of the fennel seeds remain in the pot.) (I used a Vitamix.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock to the blender along with the parsley and the still-frozen peas. (The frozen peas cool the mixture so that it remains a brilliant green.) Leave the remaining stock in the pot, covered, so that it remains warm. (I kept the pot over low heat.)
  4. Blend the solids, parsley, frozen peas, and cup of stock until the mixture is completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside. (You should have about 3 cups of purée.)
  5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved chopped onion, pancetta, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and pancetta are lightly browned and the pancetta fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. (I used a low, wide, enameled cast iron pot.)
  6. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with fat, about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1 cup of warm stock. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Ladle in additional stock to barely cover the rice, about 1 cup at a time, and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes per addition.
  9. Repeat the addition of stock, about 4 or 5 times, until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes.
  11. Add the thawed, room temperature peas and the reserved purée; stir into heated through, about 1 minute.
  12. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter; stir until melted.
  13. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  14. Serve sprinkled with additional grated Parmesan, as desired.

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