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Broccoli Rabe and Chive Pesto Orecchiete, Sunflower "Parm" & Smoky Chickpeas

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and chive pesto is a fresh and flavourful meal. Naturally nut-free, vegan, and perfect for Spring. Only ten ingredients!
Cuisine Italian
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword 10 ingredients, all seasons, broccoli rabe, chickpeas, chives, fall, garlic, lemon, nutritional yeast, olive oil, Orecchiette, paprika, pasta, quick, smoked paprika, spring, spring entertaining, summer, sunflower seeds, winter
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 400 grams), tough stems trimmed
  • cup roughly chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ cups sunflower seeds, toasted & divided
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat and set aside.
  • Dry the chickpeas thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel and transfer them to the baking sheet. Toss the chickpeas with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Roast the chickpeas for 17-20 minutes (stirring at the halfway point), or until slightly crispy, browned, and chewy. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heatl. Remove and reserve the leaves from the broccoli rabe stalks. Chop the stalks into 2-inch pieces, leaving the floret at the end as a whole piece. Drop broccoli rabe stalks and florets into the boiling water and cook until slightly softened, about two minutes. Drop the leaves into the water as well and cook until they wilt, about 10 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli rabe and place it on a clean kitchen towel. Reserve the cooking water.
  • Dry the broccoli rabe and then transfer it to a food processor. To the food processor, add the chives, garlic, lemon juice, 1 cup of the sunflower seeds, salt, pepper, and remaining olive oil. Pulse the mixture until you have a slightly chunky paste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and set aside.
  • In a spice grinder (or back into the cleaned out food processor bowl), grind the remaining sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, and some salt until you have a coarse powder that tastes a bit cheesy. Set aside.
  • Bring the broccoli rabe cooking water back to a boil. Add the orecchiette to the water and cook according to package directions. Before draining, reserve a full cup of the pasta/broccoli rabe cooking water.
  • Return the large pot to the stove over medium heat. Add the drained pasta to the pot along with the broccoli rabe and chive pesto and a big splash of the reserved cooking water. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and then stir. Add more water if the pasta seems dry. Keep stirring until the pasta is hot and creamy all the way through.
  • Serve the pasta with smoky chickpeas on top, chili flakes, drizzles of olive oil, and the sunflower parm.


  • For my GF friends, use any gluten-free small pasta shape that you like. Proceed with the recipe as written.
  • Sauteed zucchini noodles as a grain-free option would be great! There should be enough moisture from the zucchini to make the pesto and noodles come together nicely. If not, just use a splash of water.
  • We enjoyed reheated leftovers of this pasta with chopped kalamata olives, extra sautéed broccoli rabe, and some roasted grape tomatoes. It was deluxe and delicious.
  • If you haven't tried broccoli rabe (sometimes called rapini)  before, it has a distinct and strong bitter flavour that most people either love or hate. Just an FYI going in ;)