Cavatelli and Broccoli
Roll up your sleeves, and let’s get creative in the kitchen! This creamy Cavatelli and Broccoli feels totally fresh, but it uses pantry and freezer ingredients like dry pasta, white beans, and broccoli (you can use frozen broccoli here too!).
If you’re feeling down and stuck in a recipe rut (pasta again?), this healthy, creamy pasta is going to give you a new way to enjoy ingredients that you’ve likely become intimately acquainted with over the last week—I’m looking at you, dry pasta and canned beans.
The big difference with this cavatelli and broccoli recipe is how it uses the ingredients. Think of it as an attitude adjustment, turned delicious, comforting dinner.
The difference maker with this broccoli pasta recipe is oven roasting, not only of the vegetables but of the beans too!
Roasted vegetables are crispy on the outside, caramelized and tender on the inside, and offer an all-around superior flavor compared to most sautéed or steamed vegetables. The recipe is written for roasting fresh broccoli, but you can easily swap it for Roasted Frozen Broccoli (see below for tips) or any other roasted vegetable you prefer or have on hand.
Roasting the white beans on the pan alongside the vegetables does the recipe one better. I’ve made crispy roasted chickpeas for years, so I started to wonder what would happen if I roasted regular white beans (like cannellini or great Northern) instead.
The beans become lightly crispy on the outside and stay creamy on the inside. I had a hard time not devouring them all directly from the sheet pan before they even made it into the pasta.
As far as which type of pasta to use, if I had my pick, I love cavatelli here most of all. The noodle shape is very similar to the beans’, so once the two mix together, you never quite know which you are getting on your fork. It makes the meal engaging to eat. As a healthy bonus, the recipe will trick you into thinking you are eating extra pasta in your serving.
If you don’t have cavatelli, of course any other shape will be positively delish. Use this recipe as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
How to Make Cavatelli and Broccoli
Again, FLEXIBILITY! You can use any other roasted vegetable in place of the broccoli (these crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts sound mighty fine). Feel free to sub in different pasta shapes too.
- Broccoli. Besides its tasty roasted flavor, broccoli is also packed with Vitamin-C, minerals, and fiber.
- White Beans. Roasting them first gives this pasta the royal treatment! Beans are also rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants.
- Cavatelli. Extra fun for the way it mimics the shape of the beans. Any tube shaped pasta will work nicely here though. Choose a whole wheat pasta for maximum nutritional benefits.
- Ricotta. Ricotta combined with the pasta cooking water (along with some helpful Parm) creates a rich, creamy sauce without the need for any heavy cream. No ricotta on hand? It’s actually remarkably easy to make your own (here’s a recipe that caught my eye; no better time than now to give it a try).
- Lemon Zest and Juice. Key to livening up the pasta’s flavor.
- Red Pepper Flakes. To give the recipe a little kick.
Two ingredients I considered but left out…
- Butter. You don’t need to add butter to cavatelli and broccoli for a rich, creamy sauce (we found the ricotta to be plenty satisfying without it), but if you’d like some extra decadence, feel free to stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons unsalted butter with the ricotta.
- Meat. We kept this recipe vegetarian (the white beans are very filling, I promise!), but if you’d like to add meat, cavatelli with broccoli and sausage, chicken, or shrimp would also be yummy. Sauté your protein of choice separately, then stir it in at the end.
Add the broccoli and beans to a baking sheet, and toss them in a generous amount of olive oil. Spread them into an even layer, and roast for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.
- Remove, toss again, and return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the beans and broccoli are lightly crisp.
- As you’re roasting the broccoli and beans, cook the pasta. Reserve some pasta water, and drain the rest.
- Add the pasta, pasta water, cheeses, and red pepper to the pot.
- Add the lemon, broccoli, and beans. Adjust with more pasta water as needed. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, and DIG IN!
To Make This Recipe with Roasted Frozen Broccoli Instead of Fresh Broccoli
- Since the frozen broccoli and beans cook at different temperatures, I recommend making the broccoli before starting this recipe.
- Prepare the frozen broccoli according to the directions for this Roasted Frozen Broccoli. Once the broccoli is done, you can proceed with the rest of the recipe, cooking the beans at 400 degrees F on their own. Reduce the olive oil and salt you add to the beans a bit, since the broccoli will have roasted separately.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Chop the broccoli into florets up to 2 days in advance; roast it with the beans according to the recipe directions up to 1 day in advance.
- To Store. Place leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-low heat, adding splashes of water or broth as needed to reach desired consistency.
- To Freeze. You can freeze cavatelli and broccoli for up to 3 months. Store leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
What to Serve with Cavatelli and Broccoli
While this recipe is a nutritious, complete meal as is, here are a few ideas of what you could serve with it:
- Salad. Bring a little green to your table by pairing this dish with a side of Anytime Arugula Salad.
- Bread. You can’t go wrong with a delicious crusty loaf of bread from your local bakery. This Crock Pot Bread would also be tasty.
- Wine. Cheers to you! If you’d like to pair this cavatelli and broccoli with wine, try a dry white with some body to it. The technique will vary by wine maker, but in general Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or an un-oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay would all be good places to start.
More Fast, Healthy Pasta Recipes with Simple Ingredients
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- Classic Dutch Oven. An indispensable and worthwhile investment for your kitchen.
- Rimmed Baking Sheets. Perfect for roasting veggies (and beans too!).
- Citrus Juicer. I refuse to juice citrus without this helpful tool now.
I hope this creamy cavatelli and broccoli gives you some healthy dinner inspiration. As always, if you decide to try the recipe, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Your comments and 5-star ratings truly keep me motivated and are so helpful to my site and to others too!
Cavatelli and Broccoli
- 2 pounds broccoli crowns - cut into bite-size florets
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil - divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt - divided, plus additional to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper - plus additional to taste
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans - or similar white beans, such as great Northern
- 8 ounces cavatelli - or other tube-shaped pasta
- 1 medium lemon - zest and juice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese - about 7.5 ounces
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese - plus additional for serving
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes - plus additional to taste
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the broccoli and white beans in the center. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Toss to coat then spread into an even layer, scattering the beans throughout. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and gently toss the broccoli and beans to move it around a bit and promote even browning. Return to the oven and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes, until the broccoli is dark and crisp at the tips of the florets and the beans are lightly crisp. Set aside.
- While the broccoli and beans cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Reserve 1 generous cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Return the pasta to the pot. Add 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, the ricotta, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Zest the lemon right into the pot, then cut the lemon into quarters and squeeze in the juice. Add the roasted broccoli and beans, then gently stir, adding more pasta water as needed if the pasta is too thick. Taste and add more seasoning as desired (I added a pinch of extra salt and red pepper flakes). Serve hot, sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese.
- TO STORE: Place leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-low heat, adding splashes of water or broth as needed to reach desired consistency.
- TO FREEZE: You can freeze cavatelli and broccoli for up to 3 months. Store leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Chop the broccoli into florets, and roast it with the beans according to the recipe directions up to 1 day in advance.
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