Chef Anne Burrell’s Broccoli Rabe Pesto & A Food Gal Giveaway

Pesto gets a makeover with broccoli rabe instead of the usual basil.

She has a spiky platinum ‘do and a wild persona to match.

But Chef Anne Burrell also has cooking chops as vast as her outsized personality. After all, this is a woman who’s cooked at Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia in New York, Peter Hoffman’s Savoy in New York and was executive chef at Centro Vinoteca in New York. She’s also battled alongside Mario Batali on “Iron Chef America,” and now hosts her own Food Network show, “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.”

Her new cookbook, “Cook Like a Rock Star” (Clarkson Potter) with food writer Suzanne Lenzer, is all about getting food on the table without any drama. The book,  of which I recently received a review copy, is full of 125 enticing recipes such as rack of lamb crusted with black olives, “Cheater’s Duck Confit and Bitter Greens,” and “Juicy, Jammy, Jelly Tart.”

The book is also a hoot, as Burrell’s breezy, no-nonsense voice comes through in all the recipes, such as this one for “Rockin’ Porchetta,” in which she instructs, “Remove the pork from the oven, cut off the twine (you don’t want to floss and eat at the same time), and remove the pork skin — it will probably come off in one large, lovely crispy piece like a helmut!”

Or in the book’s promotional materials, in which she explains her approach to simplifying things in her cookbook as compared to other books that might “tell you to brown a piece of meat and then deglaze the ‘fond.’ But what the hell is ‘fond’? It’s the crud on the bottom of the pan—the flavor, the stuff you want to scrape up and use to develop your rich brown food! By ditching the fancier cooking terms and speaking in plain English, I’m going to help you to understand why you brown the crap out of things (because brown food tastes good), and how to get the crud off the bottom of the pan (deglazing).”

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at her twist on the usual basil pesto: “Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage.”

Her version is much richer and more substantial, as broccoli rabe is pureed with pistachios, Parmigiano and mascarpone to make a thick pesto that gets mixed with the cute ear-shaped pasta and crumbled Italian sausage.

This pesto has a pleasant bitter edge and a real luxuriousness because of the addition of the creamy, slightly sweet Italian cheese.

This dish cooks up about half an hour, too.

The only omission in the recipe is that the directions call for mixing 2/3 of the pesto into the hot, drained pasta, but never says what to do with the remainder of it. But you could easily refrigerate the leftover pesto and slather it on grilled bread the next night for delicious crostini.

You can meet Burrell when she does a book signing at 5 p.m. Oct. 14 at Williams-Sonoma at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. Books to be signed must be purchased at Williams-Sonoma. The following day, Burrell will host a cooking demo and book-signing 1:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at Sur La Table at Santana Row in San Jose.

Contest: Three lucky Food Gal readers will each receive a free copy of Anne Burrell’s “Cook Like a Rock Star” cookbook. Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Oct. 8. The winner will be announced Oct. 10.

How to win?

Tell me which rock star or singer you’d most want to be — and why.

Here’s my own answer to that question:

“Shakira. She’s got that gorgeous mane of hair. And who wouldn’t want to be able to shake their hips like there’s no tomorrow?”

Girard's newly revamped salad dressings.

Winner of the Previous Contest: In last week’s Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me what you don’t feel dressed without. The winner will receive samples of four newly revamped Girard’s salad dressings.

Congrats to:

Guidolicious, who wrote, “My sexy red toenail polish. I have pretty feet so I pamper them regularly. Pedicures are my one consistent splurge. I certainly would never put on sandals without polished nails!”

Creamy, nutty, bitter and with a whisper of sweetness.

Orecchietti with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage

(Serves 4 to 6)

For the pesto:

Kosher salt

2 bunches of broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed, coarsely chopped into 1-inch lengths

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup mascarpone

For the pasta:

Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, casings removed

1 pound orecchiette

Big fat finishing oil (a good extra virgin olive oil)

Freshly grated Parmigiano

For the pesto: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Drop the rabe into the water, give it a swish, and remove it immediately, saving the water to cook your pasta in later.

Reserve a cup of the rabe. Toss the rest in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add pistachios and Parm and puree until smooth. If it seems dry, drizzle in a little olive oil while the machine is running. Add mascarpone and pulse until combined; taste for seasoning. It should be slightly bitter, nutty and creamy at the same time. Reserve.

For the pasta: Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add sausage, using a spoon to break it up, and cook until brown and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes.

Bring your broccoli rabe water back to a boil and toss in the pasta, cooking for 1 minute less than the package recommends. Drain pasta and add it, along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water, the reserved rabe, and two-thirds of the pesto, to the pan with the sausage. Stir to combine and cook until the water evaporates and the pesto is clinging to the pasta. Remove from heat, drizzle with some big fat finishing oil, sprinkle with more Parm, and stir vigorously to combine. Drizzle among bowls and serve immediately.

From “Cook Like a Rock Star” by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer

More Pasta Love: Spaghettini with Tuna and V8 Sauce

And: Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil

And: Campanile Tuna Noodle Casserole

And: Macaroni and Cheese with Aged Sharp White Cheddar

And: Perbacco’s 5-Hour Pork Sugo

And: Heston Blumenthal’s New-Style Ragu alla Bolognese

Print This Post


  • What an amazing pesto! I am a real sucker for broccoli rabe. It has such a unique flavor and is really versatile.



  • Janet Jackson. Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.

    Just loved her in the Control and Rhythm Nation days! As a kid, just wanted to sing and dance like her!

  • As a young girl, there was no one who inspired me more than Cyndi Lauper. She had more sass and verve than anyone else at the time.

  • Pat Benetar – beautiful & sexy, but strong!

  • Beyonce. Her voice is amazing and I’d give just about anything for that booty!

  • Mmmm…that pesto looks fantastic. Definitely a reminder I don’t cook with broccoli rape as much as I should. I’d say Miley Cyrus as I cannot imagine what it is like to grow up as the child of a musician and then to become one yourself. Not to mention I’d love to be young again and to have accomplished so much at an early age.

  • Nice pesto especially with broccoli 🙂
    Hope you have a great week Carolyn!

  • What a delicious recipe. I love that extra bitterness from the broccoli rabe you mentioned. I’m going to get the ingredients later and make this dish tonight.

    Here’s my entry for the giveaway. The rock star or singer I’d most want to be is Madonna! I admired her talent and I’ll be out of this world happy if I can look that gorgeous and fit at her age.

  • I would love to be Bono. He has had international success doing what he loves most, but more importantly he uses his celebrity to help those most challenged. Cute, sexy, talented humanitarian with a heart of gold. It doesn’t get any better than that!

  • Tough call, Cher? Annie Lennox?, Gwen Stefani?

    I think I’m going with Katy Perry. Talented, young, in love with a hilarious guy. She’s got a great career ahead of her, she always looks like she having so much fun – and she doesn’t complain about the “how difficult it is to be a star” business

  • anne burrell is one of my girl chef crushes! her and cat.

    i would want to be a rockstar chef like cat cora. i mean, cat is the ONLY female iron chef! who doesn’t want that job? plus she created chefs for humanity and she supports chef for seals. she is a working mom with two adorable boys at home. a successful relationship with her partner.

    i don’t want to just be like her, i want to BE her!

  • Bjork! I wish I could be that weird AND that talented. I love her voice and her spirit…she puts on a really great show.

  • I am a maniac for green vegetables and broccoli and broccoli rabe so this pasta dish sounds great. And I had no idea that the residue was called fond! 😀

  • This pesto looks really good and I must remember bright pink and orange as an awesome colour combo!

  • This pesto looks so delicious.. great veggie meal.
    Beyonce!! she’s got talent and an amazing voice.

  • I had no idea that lovely “crud” in the bottom of the pan was called fond!

    My hope to be a rock star days are long over, but I still love Carly Simon!

  • This book sounds awesome, both to cook from and to read through! I love broccoli rabe…so that pesto especially sounds delicious!

  • My version of rock star is Julia Child. Big shoes to fill (literally, I hear), but I’d love to try — all the amazing travel, her fun-loving personality, her ability to keep her wits about her, and of course, her incredible talent.



  • I’d like to be Vienna Teng because she’s Chinese, smart, beautiful, can play the piano & sing! She’s just awesome.

  • Love that recipe, love all of the other examples in that book. I’m an nut for Italian food. It’s the one thing i don’t mess up and always sounds good.

    KT Tunstall because you can tell she’s havin’ a blast. She rocks out and still sounds like a woman. Shes not trying to sound like anyone but herself. “Big black horse and a cherry tree… woo-hoo”

  • I’d want to be some unknown jazz lounge singer with a sultry voice. No paparazzi worries, just that silky silky voice to let loose in the wind.

  • I’d love to be Lady Gaga. She knows how to inspire others and be true to herself. She’s aware of her influence and knows how to use it for things she believes in which takes guts and faith. It kind of reminds me of eating food that your not sure about but you have faith, take the bite, and then know that it was worth trying even if you don’t like the taste. If you end up loving the taste then your overjoyed with the experience and happy that you opened yourself up to something new. Now that’s what life is all about!

  • Pingback: Food Gal » Blog Archiv » “A Wine & Food Affair” in Sonoma County and a Food Gal Giveaway

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *