Pasta con broccoli (pasta with broccoli) is such an easy pasta dish that is so hearty and comforting. It's like mac and cheese, where you just can't stop eating it. Feel free to double the recipe- there are rarely leftovers with this one!
What Is Pasta With Broccoli?
Pasta con broccoli is pasta with broccoli in a garlic, olive oil and pasta water sauce. The broccoli is twice cooked, once in the pot, then sauteed in garlic and olive oil to make a creamy sauce that sticks to the pasta real well.
No cream is used in this broccoli pasta recipe. There's really no need for it. The cooking process breaks down the broccoli and with the addition of the starchy pasta water, a great sauce is easily created.
Also to alleviate any confusion pasta con broccoli and pasta e broccoli (pasta and broccoli) are the same thing.
How To Make Pasta Con Broccoli
- Ingredients shown: broccoli, garlic, chili flakes, pecorino and orecchiette pasta.
- Start by bringing a large pot of salted water (2 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon of water) to a boil. Chop broccoli stems off and break into bite size florets.
- Chop 6 cloves of garlic.
- When water comes to a boil add in all the broccoli florets and cook until tender - about 8 minutes or so. Once the broccoli has finished, (don't dump the water) remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Begin boiling the pasta in the same water and cook to al dente.
- In a large pan saute the garlic in 6 tablespoons of olive oil on medium to medium-low heat until golden. If using chili flakes, add them at this point to the pan.
- Next, add the cooked broccoli to the pan and saute for 3-5 minutes in the olive oil.
- Make sure to reserve 2 cups of pasta water before draining.
- Add 1 cup of pasta water to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Then, add the pasta and a ½ cup of pecorino cheese. Mix well for 1 minute to incorporate the sauce. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Also, add more pasta water if required. The sauce should be quite moist and not at all dry. Finally remove the pan from the heat and drizzle a ¼ cup or more of extra virgin olive on the pasta and broccoli.
Serve with more pecorino, chili flakes, and extra virgin olive on the side. If the pasta drys out at all while waiting to eat, just add some more of the pasta water to bring the consistency right back to perfect.
So that's how to make pasta with broccoli. No extra salt was added, adjust accordingly. Pecorino cheese is quite salty and no doubt more will be added to each serving, so keep that in mind.
What Type Of Pasta For Pasta And Broccoli
For the pasta we used orecchiette. There are so many good shapes to use. Rigatoni, penne, ziti and small shells are all great for this application. Orecchiette and shells work particularly well at holding the broccoli sauce.
Flavoring The Broccoli Sauce
- Anchovies - So good! Anchovies are definitely an acquired taste, but really add a special body to the pasta broccoli. If you would like to try it, start with 2 anchovies minced and sauteed in the olive oil with garlic. Work your way up from there, any time you remake the recipe - anchovy paste can also be used.
- Pancetta - Pancetta will add a nice kick and is a good way to start off the dish. Just keep in mind it will definitely alter and compete with the broccoli flavor.
- Garlic - One of the biggest differences between Italian food in Italy vs the New York area are the amounts of garlic used. Often in Italy one or two whole cloves will be smashed and lightly sauteed in olive oil before being removed. The garlic gently flavors the oil. If you don't like a lot of garlic do it that way, or use a lot like we do here in New York. Totally a matter of preference!
- Cheese - Pecorino and parmigiano reggiano are both excellent in this pasta broccoli recipe. Pecorino is saltier. With parmigiano you might need to add a little bit more extra salt before serving.
- Chili flakes - Add the crushed red pepper flakes to the oil when sauteing the garlic. A ½ tsp is a good amount for a moderate kick. Alternatively, just serve it on the side like shown in the pic directly above.
- Grilled Chicken - To make a much more substantial meal, add in 1-1 ½ pounds of grilled chicken strips. If choosing to use the chicken add it in during the broccoli saute step.
In this shot the broccoli pasta was made with casarecce and the broccoli was not cooked as long. There are many ways to do things! Use this recipe as a general guide - if you don't like the idea of super soft broccoli, just cook it for a few minutes less.
White wines such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc go particularly well with this pasta and broccoli recipe.
On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being easy this pasta con broccoli is a 2. Just don't burn the garlic, cook the pasta al dente and save lots of pasta water.
Want More Comforting Pasta
- Linguine Aglio E Olio
- Bucatini Cacio E Pepe
- Pasta e Ceci
- Instant Pot Pasta Fagioli
- Pasta Al Forno
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Pasta Alla Norma
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- 1 pound orecchiette
- 1 large head of broccoli
- 6 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup pecorino cheese
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- 2 cups pasta water
- Bring a large pot of salted (2 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon) water to boil. Remove and discard lower stems from broccoli and break into bite size florets. Add florets to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes until tender. When finished, set cooked broccoli aside making sure to not drain boiling water.
- Cook pasta in boiling water to al dente. While pasta cooks, in a large pan saute 6 cloves of chopped garlic in a ⅓ cup of olive oil over medium-low heat until golden. After golden (about 2-3 minutes) add ½ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes to oil.
- Add the precooked broccoli to the pan and continue to saute for 2-3 more minutes to further soften broccoli. Before draining pasta reserve at least 2 cups of pasta water.
- Add 1 cup of pasta water to the pan to make the broccoli sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add the pasta into the pan along with a ½ cup of grated pecorino. Stir to thoroughly combine and continue to cook for 1 more minute.
- Taste test the pasta and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Also, add more pasta water if required to achieve a loose consistency. Remove pan from heat and drizzle the ¼ cup of extra virgin olive onto the pasta. Serve with more pecorino cheese, crushed red pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!
- The sauce consistency will get creamier the longer the broccoli cooks. If you like the broccoli more firm just reduce the boiling time.
- No extra salt was added, except for the salt in the pasta water and the pecorino cheese. Adjust accordingly.
- Crushed red pepper flakes are optional.
- Serve more crushed red pepper, pecorino cheese and extra virgin olive on the side.