Meatless Monday: Hip Hip Hooray for Mario Batali! – and featuring his fabulous Broccoli Rabe Pesto, budget-friendly style

Iron Chef Mario Batali’s rock-star signature dishes often include meat-lover’s ingredients like veal shanks and bone marrow. Needless to say, we were surprised and thrilled at the announcement that Chef Batali is going meatless on Mondays!

“The fact is, most people in the U.S. eat way more meat than is good for them or the planet,” said Batali. “Asking everyone to go vegetarian or vegan isn’t a realistic or attainable goal. But we can focus on a more plant-based diet. That’s why I’m such a big believer in the Meatless Monday movement!” Batali announced last week that he will feature several vegetarian entrees in all his restaurants on Mondays.

To applaud his efforts, I made up a huge batch of his Broccoli Rabe Pesto and tossed it with orchiette pasta.

I have never eaten broccoli rabe, and have never seen it in my local grocery stores. I understand the taste is similar to broccoli with a more bitter taste. I als0 understand it is very expensive. I made a more budget-friendly version by using regular broccoli with some Balsamic vinegar to give it some tang.

For this recipe I also substituted toasted walnuts for the pine nuts to save money and discovered that broccoli and walnuts are a fabulous flavor combination. As Chef Batali would say: “Perfecto!”


Total time 10 minutes. Makes about 4 cups of pesto.

1/2 pound broccoli rabe (or immature broccoli stalks)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup pine nuts (or toasted diced walnuts)
2 tablespoons diced Italian parsley
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop broccoli rabe and then boil in salted water for 5 minutes. Place in food processor with all remaining ingredients except oil and process until in very small pieces. Slowly stream in oil  until pesto reaches the right consistency. Makes about 4 cups of pesto.

Other must-try adventurous pestos by food bloggers:
Asparagus Pesto, Simply Recipes
Ramp Pesto, No Recipes
Pistachio Asparagus Pesto, Serious Eats
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Roasted Pepper Pesto, The Perfect Pantry
Walnut Pesto
, Smitten Kitchen

— posted by Donna


  1. Cozy Cuisine says

    I just made the pesto recipe. I subbed the balsamic vinegar with lemon juice and grated lemon peel. I did add parmesan cheese and fresh basil from my potted herb garden on my balcony. I was really looking for a different way to enjoy broccoli. Didn’t want to make another soup or salad out of it so this was a great alternative. Thanks a bunch!

  2. says

    I wanted to thank you for this special read on Meatless Mondays. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  3. says

    I think it also goes by “rapini”. Maybe they have it under that name? And it’s pretty leafy – check with the kale and collards and chard and such?

  4. says

    Thanks for all the input on broccoli and its cousins! I will try to locate some of the more bitter variety and make this recipe again.

  5. says

    This looks great! One note on what the produce guy told you. Broccolini is immature broccoli, but broccoli rabe is something different. It has a very bitter (but delicious) flavor and is actually a closer relative to turnips than to broccoli!! That said, I have also had luck subbing broccoli for broccoli rabe when I couldn’t find any. Yummy green vegetables are good no matter what!

  6. eric says

    Hmm, quite sure that immature broccoli is not the same as Broccoli Rabe. Broccoli rabe has a distinct bitterness (and flavor) that you are simply not going to get by buying “immature” broccoli.

  7. Emily says

    Sorry to say this, but your produce manager is wrong. Broccoli rabe is *not* just baby broccoli — having grown both, as a gardener, they have totally different growth habits and more importantly totally different tastes — “baby broccoli” is not even close to as bitter as true broccoli rabe is.


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