Broccoli Pasta (SO Easy!)

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Broccoli Pasta is ridiculously flavorful and couldn’t be easier or quicker to make! Put dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less with a meal the whole family will go crazy for!

This recipe can be made vegetarian by switching out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. On the flip side, if you’d like to add some protein, try our chicken and broccoli pasta or sausage broccoli pasta instead!

Broccoli Pasta

This is a Kid-Friendly Easy Dinner Recipe

I’m frequently asked if my kids are picky eaters or adventurous with all the various recipes I have them try. While I’m not immune to picky eaters, I will tell you, all three of my kids are legitimately obsessed with broccoli.

We attribute that obsession to first and foremost this Roasted Broccoli (game. changer.), this Broccoli Potato Soup, and this very recipe I’m sharing today.

Broccoli and Pasta is incredibly simple to make. It’s one I’ll make whenever we’re sparse on ingredients or the family has begged too many times to turn them down. It comes together quickly and requires relatively minimal ingredients.

Process shots: boil pasta and broccoli; drain in a collander

How To Make Broccoli Pasta

The full recipe is below, but here is a quick overview to show just how easy this cheesy broccoli dish is to make:

  • Boil pasta and broccoli at the same time; drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, make the broccoli pasta sauce, which combines chicken broth (or vegetable if you’re vegetarian), cream, and Parmesan cheese. 
  • Emulsify! Add the broccoli and pasta to the sauce and vigorously toss. Emulsifying is one of the secrets to Italian pasta and it’s how you get a luxuriously smooth and incredibly flavorful sauce.

Process shots: Melt butter and add in seasonings; saute; add in chicken broth; stir in Parmesan and cream.

How To Cook Broccoli For Pasta

One of the great things about this recipe is that the broccoli cooks WITH the pasta – score! One to two minutes before draining, add in the broccoli florets. Drain everything, and you’ve got perfectly cooked broccoli ready to be tossed with the sauce.

Can I Use Frozen Broccoli?

We tested this recipe with fresh and frozen broccoli — either works! With both fresh and frozen, the florets do need to be cut down fairly small. If using frozen broccoli, you’ll want to set it out for a bit so it can be thawed enough for a quick coarse chop.

Process shots: simmer the sauce until thickened; add pasta and broccoli; toss vigorously; serve.

VARIATIONS

Broccoli Pasta Recipe Variations

  • Broccoli Pasta Vegan: Try this recipe that uses nutritional yeast and cashew milk instead!
  • Healthy Broccoli Pasta: To make a more nutritious version, replace the pasta with plant-based pasta (like chickpea pasta) and try a different (lighter) sauce. The sauce in this vegetable pasta is insanely good and secretly healthy — we use a can of creamed corn instead of milk or dairy products! 
  • How to make pasta salad with broccoli: Try our broccoli grape pasta salad.
  • Chicken broccoli pasta: Toss in 1-1/2 cups leftover rotisserie chicken at the end to warm through. 

Close-up of Broccoli Pasta

Recipe tips

  • Salt the pasta water: Make sure the pasta is well salted as it cooks, since salting the water is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. 
  • Increase the sauce as desired: Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce or you just want an extra saucy meal, so don’t be afraid to add in a few splashes of the reserved pasta water until the sauce is exactly how you like it! (See “quick tip” below.)
  • It’s easy to go on autopilot and dump in the whole package of rotini, but this recipe is perfect with 3 cups. (There won’t be enough sauce to cover a whole box of pasta.)
  • Use low-sodium broth: It’s important to use a low or reduced-sodium broth so the final dish doesn’t end up too salty. On the flip side, if you feel this creamy broccoli pasta is lacking, add some extra salt at the end!

QUICK TIP

Do you struggle to remember to pull out pasta water before draining the pasta? I know I do! Here’s a trick: Place the colander in the sink with a mug or heat-safe measuring cup in the center. When you go to drain the pasta, you’ll be reminded to pull out some water first!

Broccoli Pasta in a bowl, with a fork at the side.

More easy and tasty pasta recipes:

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Broccoli Pasta

5 from 6 votes
This Broccoli Pasta is ridiculously flavorful and couldn't be easier or quicker to make! Put dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less with a meal the whole family will go crazy for!
Print Recipe

Broccoli Pasta

5 from 6 votes
This Broccoli Pasta is ridiculously flavorful and couldn't be easier or quicker to make! Put dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less with a meal the whole family will go crazy for!
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword broccoli pasta
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 356kcal
Cost $5.62

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (9 oz.; 270g) rotini pasta uncooked
  • 4 cups (2 heads) chopped broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme (optional)
  • 1 cup (229g) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup (232g) heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup (70g) Parmesan cheese Note 1
  • Optional: red pepper flakes, 1 lemon, finely chopped parsley

Instructions

  • PREP: Chop fresh broccoli into small florets. If using frozen, let it stand out for a few minutes and then give it a quick coarse chop. Measure and set aside.
  • PASTA: Set a large colander in the sink with a glass mug in the center of the colander (so you don't forget to grab some pasta water before draining!). Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water (I add 2 teaspoons salt) and then cook the pasta according to package instructions-- minus 1 minute from what the package indicates. Two minutes before draining time, add in the broccoli florets. Right before draining, use the glass mug to remove a big scoop of pasta water (set aside for now) and then drain the pasta. Don't rinse under cool water.
  • GARLIC: Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan (that will need to fit all the pasta and broccoli), heat the butter. Once melted, add garlic and all the seasonings. Season with salt and pepper (I add 1/4 teaspoon of each) Cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth; it should sizzle and boil. Scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Once this 1/2 cup is mostly evaporated, add in the other 1/2 cup. Stir.
  • CREAM SAUCE: Add in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese and stir to mx. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes or until sauce thickens up and slightly reduces. The sauce shouldn't boil-- reduce heat/stir more frequently if needed.
  • TOSS: Once you have a thick and creamy sauce, add the drained pasta and broccoli. Use tongs to toss ingredients into the cream sauce until the sauce thickens and nicely coats the pasta, 1-2 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, slowly add in that set-aside pasta water. Taste and adjust, adding more salt/pepper to taste. Add in some lemon zest to taste if desired.
  • SERVE: Serve immediately. Top individual plates with a touch more Parmesan if you like, and fresh parsley. Add red pepper flakes and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to individual plates as desired. Enjoy immediately! Pasta is best enjoyed right after being tossed!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Parmesan Cheese: Grab a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively use finely grated Parmesan cheese. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won't melt into the sauce nicely.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 356kcal | Carbohydrates: 58.2g | Protein: 18.3g | Fat: 5.8g | Cholesterol: 10.8mg | Sodium: 306.5mg | Fiber: 4.6g | Sugar: 3.6g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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17 Comments

  1. What a gorgeous dish, Chelsea! I love all of the fresh ingredients you used in here. And that sauce…it looks amazing! Definitely trying this one out!

  2. Holy amazingness, Chelsea!! This pasta looks beyond amazing! I KNOW my boys would love this! Pinned! xo!

  3. Hi,

    A chance visit while searching for a recipe and I just got hooked up.Yours recipes are simple with not many ingredients ,look very good.I am gonna try your recipe soon and let you know abt the results. thanks.

  4. This was really nice, I used curry paste and jasmine rice, plus chicken thighs, with the Greek yogurt, this will be a meal I cook every couple of weeks, really not much effort or ingredients but packed with flavour, thanks for sharing x

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