One-pot Broccoli Pasta is creamy, lemony, cheesy and chock full of tender broccoli florets to work some nutrition into the mix. Add shredded chicken, or keep it vegetarian—no matter how you serve it, you’re going to love this quick and easy recipe!
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Why You’ll Love This Creamy Broccoli Pasta Recipe
- One-Pot Pasta for the Win. How much do we love a one-pot pasta recipe? SO MUCH. But let’s be real, not all of them are winners; some leave you with bloated noodles or mushy veggies, but this easy broccoli pasta won’t let you down! (Cauliflower Pasta and Chicken Parmesan Pasta are also one-pot winners.)
- Creamy and Cheesy, Without Overdoing It. The starch from the pasta stays in the pot, rather than being drained off, which helps you achieve a luxurious sauce without heavy cream and heaps of cheese. In fact, I use nonfat milk when I make this healthy broccoli pasata recipe! You get cheesy, creamy pasta without the heaviness (and regret). For a creamier version, try my Chicken Broccoli Alfredo.
- A Main or a Side: Your Call. If you grew up eating Pasta-Roni as a side for Chicken Tonight (IYKYK), you’ll get a hit of nostalgia serving this broccoli pasta as a side dish for Pan Fried Chicken Breast or Baked Chicken Breast. But with the broccoli bulking up the pasta, this totally works as a light dinner option too.
- Layers of Flavor. Cheesy pasta recipes always run the risk of being one-note, but we’ve got a lot going on here—a bit of red pepper flakes for a kick, broth for a flavorful base, fresh herbs, and lemon juice to bring it all together and brighten up the sauce.
How to Make Broccoli Pasta
- Yellow Onion. You can also use shallots, which have a similar flavor.
- Garlic. Some garlic cloves are bigger (or smaller) than others; if yours aren’t the typical size, just measure a tablespoon after mincing.
- Seasoning. I use Italian seasoning for a nice mix of herbs, plus red pepper flakes for a kick. You can adjust the amount as desired.
- Low-Sodium Chicken Broth. Broth makes this one-pot pasta recipe much more flavorful than cooking in water. Vegetable broth can be substituted to make this broccoli pasta vegetarian.
- Nonfat Milk. Or use whatever milk you have on hand.
- Pasta. Dry whole wheat ziti, rotini, or similar pasta such rigatoni, penne, or fusilli.
- Broccoli. Cut it into small florets. For a shortcut, use bagged pre-cut broccoli.
- Lemon Juice. You can also add the zest for a little more lemony zip and zing in your creamy broccoli pasta.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese. Parm has such an assertive flavor that you don’t need to add all that much to create a delicious sauce.
- Fresh Herbs. I recommend parsley or basil.
- Cook the Aromatics. Then add the herbs and spices.
- Add the Liquids. Slowly stir in the broth and milk, then bring to a boil.
- Boil the Pasta. Add the pasta to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Finish. Stir in the broccoli. Keep boiling until the pasta is al dente, stirring often. Add the remaining ingredients, then season to taste and rest for 5 minutes. Stir, serve, and ENJOY!
- Creamy Broccoli Pasta With Roasted Garlic. Make a whole head of Roasted Garlic. Mash it with a fork and use this instead of the fresh garlic.
- Broccoli Pasta With Sausage. Cook crumbled Italian sausage in the pot; remove to a plate, the proceed with the recipe as written. At the end of the cooking, stir the sausage into the pasta. (You’ll love this Italian Sausage Pasta too.)
- Pasta With Broccoli and Chicken. Stir leftover Air Fryer Whole Chicken (or rotisserie chicken!) into the pasta during the last few minutes of cooking time to heat it through.
- To Store. Store leftover creamy broccoli pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a skillet with a splash of milk or broth. Adding more fresh herbs and cheese will help revive the flavor.
- To Freeze. Broccoli pasta is best enjoyed fresh, as the texture will become soft after freezing and thawing. That said, if you’ve got leftovers you can’t eat within a few days, you can freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Meal Prep Tip
Cut the onions and broccoli a day or two in advance to get a head start on the recipe. Store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
What to Serve with Broccoli Pasta
- Salads. For a light dinner, pair broccoli pasta with Arugula Salad, Spinach Strawberry Salad, or Salad with Burrata.
- Pork. Baked Pork Tenderloin or Air Fryer Pork Chops would both be fab as a main for this pasta.
- Chicken. Air Fryer Chicken Breast, Baked Bone In Chicken Breast, or any other simple chicken recipe would also be perfect.
- Bread. Because sometimes the only acceptable side for carbs is more carbs. Try No Knead Foccacia or Rosemary Olive Oil Bread with your broccoli cheese pasta.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. Because you need a roomy pot for one-pot pasta.
- Citrus Juicer. The best tool for juicing lemons
- Box Grater. A less-messy way to shred your own cheese.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Cut the Vegetables to Uniform Sizes. This ensure that both your onions and broccoli are done cooking at the same time. No crunchy onions or mushy broccoli!
- Don’t Use an Alternative Pasta. Pastas made with beans, lentils, and other alternatives to wheat cook and absorb water differently than traditional pastas, which means they don’t always work in a one-pot pasta recipe. Stick with the tried-and-true for your broccoli pasta.
- Grate the Parmesan Yourself. Shelf-stable grated Parmesan—the kind in the green bottle—won’t melt smoothly into the sauce, giving it a gritty texture. Grate your own Parmesan from a block for the best results.
- Add More Broth if Needed. If it seems like most of the water has been absorbed but the pasta and broccoli are still more firm than you like, you can add more broth. (Also keep in mind that once you take the pot off the heat, the liquid will thicken, so don’t panic if it seems a little too saucy at first!)
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- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion ¼-inch diced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic minced about 1 tablespoon
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional; or reduce to 1/8 teaspoon if sensitive to spice
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth plus additional as needed
- 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk or milk of choice
- 8 ounces dry whole wheat ziti, rotini, or similar pasta such rigatoni, penne, or fusilli
- 1 medium head broccoli cut into small florets (about 3 cups)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice for even more lemon flavor, add the zest also
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil plus additional for serving
- Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy pot over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onion, salt, and black pepper. Saute until the onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Do not let the onion brown (adjust the heat as needed if it starts to brown).
- Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Slowly stir in the broth and milk. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta. Let boil for 5 minutes, stirring periodically to keep the pasta from sticking to the pot, then stir in the broccoli florets.
- Continue boiling until the pasta is al dente, about 5 to 7 minutes more. Stir often to make sure the pasta cooks evenly. If at any point the pasta looks too dry, splash in additional broth as needed. The pasta will look a little liquidy at first but will thicken up as it sits.
- Stir in the lemon juice, Parmesan, and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning as you like. Let rest 5 minutes, then stir once more. Enjoy hot, with a sprinkle of extra Parmesan and parsley as desired.
- TO STORE: Store leftover creamy broccoli pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a skillet with a splash of milk or broth. Adding more fresh herbs and cheese will help revive the flavor.
- TO FREEZE: Broccoli pasta is best enjoyed fresh, as the texture will become soft after freezing and thawing. That said, if you’ve got leftovers you can’t eat within a few days, you can freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.
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