Serves a Crowd

Mezzi Rigatoni with Broccoli Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella

February 15, 2016
9 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Broccoli pesto makes a beautiful pasta sauce. This recipe is not too difficult, and it yields something that is deeply satisfying. The broccoli stems (arguably the best part of broccoli) get sliced, sauteed, and folded in with the pasta.

Feel free to use a different cheese than smoked mozzarella (although the smokiness of this cheese works really well in the dish), and use a different shape than mezzi rigatoni if you want.
Josh Cohen

What You'll Need
  • 1 bunch broccoli (should yield approximately 5 cups of florets)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the broccoli
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 pound mezzi rigatoni (or your favorite shape of dried pasta)
  • 1/2 pound smoked mozzarella
  1. Separate the broccoli florets from the stems. Save the stems—you will use them later. The florets should be cut into bite-size pieces. Transfer the broccoli florets to a large mixing bowl, and drizzle with enough olive oil to barely coat the florets. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Transfer the broccoli florets to the baking sheet, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and broil them until they begin to turn brown and crispy around the edges. Keep a close eye on the broccoli to prevent it from burning. Everyone’s broiler is different, so this step may take anywhere from 2-5 minutes. Set the cooked florets aside until they are cool enough to handle.
  2. Transfer the broccoli florets to the food processor. Add the ¾ cup of olive oil, along with the garlic cloves, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, and pecorino romano. Pulse until everything comes together. Do not over-process the pesto, you do not want a purée. Tiny pieces of the broccoli should be visible. Taste the pesto and adjust with salt, pepper, and/or lemon as necessary. Note that this pesto can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, shave away the fibrous outside layer of the broccoli stems. You could also use a paring knife to carefully cut away the outside layer of the broccoli stems. To test whether you have peeled away enough of the outside layer of the stem, cut off a small piece of the stem and taste it. It should taste crisp and fresh. If it is fibrous and hard to chew, peel off more of the stem and try again. Cut the stems into thin slivers about 1/4-inch thick. Set a medium skillet over medium heat, and add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli stems. Cook them, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown on the outside. Remove them from the heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and set them aside.
  4. Heat the oven to 450° F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to the boiling water until it tastes salty like the ocean. Add your pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the box, except undercook your pasta by 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the pasta from the boiling water, and dress it in the broccoli pesto. Fold in the sautéed broccoli stems. Using a box grater, grate half of the smoked mozzarella, and fold it into the pasta. Using a knife, cut the remaining smoked mozzarella into thin medallions. Transfer the pasta to a baking dish, and top with the medallions of smoked mozzarella. Bake at 450° F until the cheese begins to melt and brown, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pasta from the oven. Serve and enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Josh Cohen
    Josh Cohen
  • Christina T
    Christina T
  • Lynn
  • lois

4 Reviews

Christina T. April 30, 2017
I've done this recipe a few times and have simplified it in such a way that reduces the amount of pots / pans used I think. My method: Boil water in pot, cut broccoli into smaller pieces and broil them in a cast iron skillet, add broccoli + pesto ingredients to the food processor, cook pasta + strain and return to pot, add pesto to pasta, add pasta + smoked mozzarella back to the cast iron to cook in the oven. This version all comes together quite fast and is delicious!
Lynn August 6, 2016
Agree with lois' cons below. Would also like someone at Food 52 figure out how to simplify this recipe as it sounds SO delicious but much too complicated for busy schedules. Thanks.
Josh C. September 14, 2016
Hi Lynn and Lois,

I looked at the recipe to find tips for using less dishes. Here are a couple suggestions.

1). Don't put the raw broccoli florets in a mixing bowl and drizzle olive oil over them. Lay the florets directly onto the baking sheet and drizzle/mix them with oil on the baking sheet itself. That makes one less dirty bowl.

2). Roast the cleaned and sliced broccoli stems in the over when you roast the florets. The cooked stems can be stored in the refrigerator along with the broccoli pesto if you choose to make these in advance. This means one less dirty skillet to clean.

3). When the pasta is cooked, do not transfer it to a baking dish. Save the pot that you boiled the paste in. Return the cooked pasta to this pot, and dress the pasta with the broccoli pesto. You can add the smoked mozzarella and roast the pot in the oven to complete the dish, if the pot fits in the oven and if the pot is made to withstand the heat of the oven. This saves you from having to clean a baking dish (but you likely end up with less surface area for the melted smoked mozzarella on top, which is a shame).
lois March 10, 2016
I made this last night. I reduced the oil in the pesto to 1/2 cup and used a combination of smoked mozz (shredded in the mix) and standard mozz (sliced on top).
The pros: It was very good. There was a pretty strong lemon flavor, so if you don't want that, cut back. No problem for us.
The cons: dishes! I used a food processor to grate cheese and make the pesto, a pot for pasta, a skillet for stems, a bowl to mix everything in, and a baking dish (not to mention the zester, cutting board, colander, etc.) I'd like to figure out a way to streamline the recipe to get the same effect with less cleanup.