Preheat your oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and fill a mixing bowl with some ice cubes. While the water is boiling, rinse and break down your head of broccoli. Set aside a cup of broccoli florets for the pesto, and dump the rest on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Set aside.
While the broccoli is roasting, add the cup of broccoli florets you set aside to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Then transfer to the mixing bowl with ice to stop cooking.
Allow the water to come back to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and then cook the pasta to package directions (mine was around 9 minutes for al dente pasta). Once it's cooked, drain (reserving half a cup of pasta water) and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet and toast ½ cup of pine nuts on a medium flame for about 1-2 minutes until golden and toasty. Set aside two tablespoons for garnish.
Add a cup of blanched broccoli florets, a cup of fresh basil, 2 to 3 garlic cloves, and the toasted pine nuts to a food processor. Pulse until you get a coarse mixture. Then, add ¼ cup of olive oil slowly through the chute to emulsify to a smooth (but somewhat chunky) consistency. If your food processor does not have a chute, add olive oil in one tablespoon increments until you get to desired consistency. Finally, add a teaspoon of salt and set aside.
In a large skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium flame. Add a finely diced shallot and sauté for a minute. Then, add two teaspoons of fresh lemon zest along with a teaspoon of minced garlic (roughly one clove) and sauté until fragrant (30 to 45 seconds). Add the pasta to the skillet. Then, add the broccoli pesto, turn the heat to low, and toss to coat the pasta fully (adding the reserved pasta water as necessary to get the right consistency). Finally, add the roasted broccoli, a cup of cherry tomatoes, a handful of fresh basil, and the two tablespoons of toasted pine nuts. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice on top. Your pasta is ready.
Add a cup of whole milk ricotta to the same food processor along with a teaspoon of lemon zest and a teaspoon of lemon juice, and pulse until it's creamy and whipped. Serve the pasta with a nice dollop of this whipped ricotta!
You'll need 1 medium sized broccoli for this recipe - I tend to use a third for the pesto, and roast the other two-thirds. This helps me also roast some of the stalks, which I love eating! Measurements have also been provided in cups in case you have broccoli florets already (fresh or frozen).
You'll need roughly one fresh lemon for the recipe - this will produce enough juice and zest for both the pasta and the whipped ricotta. I strongly suggest going organic if you use citrus zest of any sort since pesticides concentrate in peels.
Almost all the toppings are optional to some degree. This pasta literally tastes amazing with nothing but pesto and pasta (true story for half my lunches).
You can substitute pine nuts with walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or even pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Or you can roast the whole broccoli and toss a third of the roasted florets into the pesto instead of nuts.
You can leave out the whipped ricotta to make this recipe vegan, or use a vegan version (though I haven't tested a specific brand to make recommendations).