I have a not-so-secret love affair with pearl couscous. I find the texture to be absolutely delightful and since it’s just pasta, it soaks up every bit of flavor around it. I love it in salads, as a base for roasted vegetables, and as a cheater risotto. The couscous works in a similar way to arborio rice in that the starch from the couscous creates a bit of creaminess. Add to that cheese and an easy broccoli pesto, this dish embodies comfort. Best of all, you can make an extra batch of the broccoli puree and have these melts for breakfast the next morning!
An easy and fast riff on risotto using whole wheat pearl couscous and a simple broccoli pesto.
- 1 cup broccoli florets and peeled stems
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons crushed almonds
- 1 small garlic clove
- Water, as needed
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup whole wheat pearl couscous
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- Toasted almond slivers, for topping
- Chili flakes, for topping
- Parsley, for topping
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and have an ice bath ready. Add the broccoli to the pot and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Broccoli should be bright green and mostly tender. Transfer broccoli to the ice bath to stop the cooking.
- Combine ingredients for the broccoli in a blender or food processor. Puree until the broccoli is in small pieces/the sauce is mostly smooth. Add the broccoli blanching water as needed to thin the puree enough to combine everything. I like the puree to be on the slightly thick side.
- Heat a pan with tall sides over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil followed by the minced garlic. Stir in the couscous and toast for a minute or so. Measure in wine. Cook until most of the wine is gone, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 15 minutes or so. The couscous should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed. When there’s a small amount of liquid left, reduce the heat to low and add the mascarpone cheese along with the broccoli mixture. Cook until hot and serve with a sprinkle of toasted almond slivers.
- Calories: 551
- Sugar: 1.5
- Sodium: 146
- Fat: 21.2
- Saturated Fat: 7
- Carbohydrates: 72.7
- Fiber: 4.9
- Protein: 14.7
- Cholesterol: 31.4
Like with most risottos, this broccoli pesto version has a few easy adaptions. A couple of my favorite versions: Baked barley risotto with the broccoli pesto and a cracked spelt risotto with kale pesto!
Risotto Base: These options take a bit longer but cracked spelt/farro or barley would work in place of the couscous. You could also go the more traditional route of arborio rice (which would make it gluten-free).
Vegan: Drop the mascarpone cheese and add 1/2 cup of white bean puree. You could also puree the broccoli mixture more to create a creamier texture without the cheese. I prefer the bean puree- it really helps with the creaminess.
Vegetable: Swap the broccoli out for cauliflower or greens (like kale or chard). You could also use romanesco if you see that as well.
When the weather cools, some of my favorite vegetables come back in season. Broccoli is just the beginning, but a great start. In general, I love roasting broccoli and it’s a match made for pasta. Beyond this pasta dish, a few other ways that I enjoy roasted broccoli include: