Pasta con broccoli, or pasta with broccoli, is a simple dish that’s easy to make and incredibly comforting. With just a few ingredients, this pasta comes together in about 30 minutes making it a go-to for busy weeknights.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on 4/23/2019. Updated with full process shots and expanded info.
Pasta con broccoli is a dish I grew up eating, and one I continuously make for my family.
Its ingredients, broccoli, garlic, and olive oil, sound simple, but when brought together with pasta and pasta water to form a creamy sauce, something magical happens.
Even the pickiest of eaters love it!
This broccoli spaghetti is perfect for busy weeknights when I want to make something quick but nourishing.
And for those who love the broccoli and pasta combo, try our macaroni and broccoli with tiny meatballs soup recipe!
How to make spaghetti with broccoli
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (2 tablespoons per gallon) and remove and discard the lower 1-2 inches of fibrous stems from 1 head of broccoli. Continue to break the broccoli down into bite-sized florets. Slice 6 cloves of garlic and grate 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese. Note: We’re using 2 broccoli crowns in the pics above and below. 1 head or 2 crowns will work.
- Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes until very tender.
- Once tender, remove the cooked broccoli with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Be sure to reserve the water for boiling the pasta.
- Heat a large pan to medium-low and saute the garlic until golden in a 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red chili flakes and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Add the broccoli to the pan and continue to saute to further soften.
- Add 1 pound of spaghetti to the boiling water (same water used for broccoli) and cook until 1 minute less than al dente. Add 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan to create the broccoli sauce and continue to cook on a low simmer.
- For a creamier consistency, mash the broccoli with a wooden spoon or meat masher.
- Once the pasta is 1 minute less than al dente, add it to the pan.
- Continue to cook, stirring constantly or tossing to coat, right until the pasta reaches al dente.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated Pecorino, tossing or mixing well to coat the pasta.
- Taste test the broccoli pasta and adjust salt and pepper as needed. If the pasta dries out at all, add a touch more reserved pasta water until the desired consistency is achieved. Serve with more Pecorino, crushed red pepper, and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil, and enjoy!
- Water. One of the reasons pasta con broccoli is so easy is that the water does double duty. The same water is used to cook both the broccoli and pasta, so be sure to not discard it after cooking the broccoli. And yes, save the pasta water to add to your sauce!
- Sauce. Pasta with broccoli can be as saucy as you’d like. If you prefer the broccoli to stay intact, you can boil it for less time and not use a masher. If you want a creamier sauce, cook the broccoli for longer and mash as much as you’d like.
- Cheese. I used Pecorino Romano for this recipe which is pretty salty so not too much extra salt was added, besides the salt in the broccoli/pasta water. If you use a less salty cheese, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, you may need to add more salt depending on your taste.
More simple pasta recipes
Here are a few more of our go-to simple pasta recipes. Enjoy!
- Roasted broccolini pasta – with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Roasted zucchini pasta – with tomato and Calabrian chili paste.
- Spaghetti alla Nerano – fried zucchini, pasta, and cheese.
If you’ve enjoyed this pasta con broccoli recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
Pasta con Broccoli
- 1 head broccoli bottom 1-2 inches discarded
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic sliced
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 3 cups pasta water will most likely not need it all
- Bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons per gallon) to boil. Remove and discard the lower 1-2 inches of fibrous stems from the broccoli and break them into bite-size florets. Add florets to boiling water and cook for 10 minutes until very tender. Once tender, remove the cooked broccoli with a slotted spoon and set aside making sure to not drain the boiling water.
- Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium-low heat, saute the garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Once the garlic turns golden (about 2-3 minutes) add the hot red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the broccoli to the pan and continue to saute to further soften it.
- Cook the pasta in the same boiling water until 1 minute less than al dente.
- Add 1 cup of the pasta water to the pan to make the broccoli sauce and continue to cook at a low simmer. For a creamier sauce, mash the broccoli with a wooden spoon against the side of the pan.
- Once the pasta reaches the almost al dente stage, add it to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta reaches a perfect al dente.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the pecorino. Toss or mix well to coat.
- Taste test the pasta and adjust salt and pepper if required. If needed, add more reserved pasta water to achieve a loose consistency. Serve with more pecorino, crushed red pepper, and a drizzle of your best 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.
- Pecorino Romano can be quite salty, so you might not need too much extra salt. Taste test and adjust to personal preference right before serving.
- Crushed red pepper flakes are optional.
- Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
This recipe was originally published on April 23, 2019. It was completely updated on March 27, 2023.