This 8-ingredient Creamy Broccoli Pasta recipe is bursting with flavor, made in one pot and ready in 25 minutes or less! Featuring with silky pasta, tender broccoli and crisp lemon breadcrumbs in a simple ricotta sauce! This flavorful pasta comes together fast, making it perfect for quick and easy weeknight dinners!
Update: This post was originally published in June 2018. I made updates the post below to include more information about easy pasta with broccoli. Plus, I added step by step photos and a recipe video to show you how simple this dish is to make!
Hi, friends! If you are craving oodles of noodles you are in for a treat! This broccoli pasta is deliciously creamy, loaded with texture, bursting with flavor and it’s so incredibly easy to prepare!
If you are looking for a way to sneak more greens into your family’s dinner, look no further than this creamy broccoli pasta! Kids, carnivores and vegetarians alike all LOVE this pasta!!
Creamy broccoli pasta recipe: overview
This recipe features silky strands of al dente noodles, tender broccoli (or broccolini), zesty lemon breadcrumbs, fresh parsley and crunchy pine nuts tossed in a rich and creamy, yet light ricotta sauce. If you like pasta Alfredo, you will love this healthier and easier version of the classic!
Not only is this pasta with broccoli super satisfying and lightened up, but it also comes together in a flash with minimal ingredients!! This is the perfect recipe to keep in your back pocket when you need a quick meal your entire family will love!
Why you will love this recipe
- Eight ingredients: This creamy pasta with broccoli requires just 8 easy-to-find ingredients (not counting pantry staples such as oil, salt and pepper).
- Fast recipe: With just a few easy steps you can have dinner on the table in 25 minutes or less!
- One pot recipe: Everything comes together in just one pot!
- Get picky eaters to enjoy their greens: Everyone loves this creamy pasta, even the pickiest of eaters!
- Easy to customize: You can easily get creative with this flexible recipe – try adding sausage, salmon, chicken or bacon for a more substantial meal!
What’s in broccoli pasta?
You only need a 9 simple ingredients to create the best broccoli pasta!
- Dry Pasta: You can use any variety of pasta you like! I tend to use a long variety of pasta (linguine); however use whatever variety if you and your family love! Just make sure you don’t overcook your pasta – only cook it to ‘al dente’ according to the instructions on the box.
- Fresh Broccoli: You need approximately half a pound of fresh broccoli for this recipe. The secret to this pasta is blanching the broccoli florets in the pasta water! Just toss the broccoli into the boiling water about 3 minutes before the pasta is done cooking. Blanching tenderizes the broccoli so it isn’t tough or mushy!
- Fresh Lemon: Both fresh lemon juice and zest are used in this recipe. The lemon flavor isn’t incredibly strong or overpowering. The acid in the lemon helps balance out the creamy sauce and it provides a touch of zippy flavor!
- Parsley: While I prefer flat-leaf parsley, you can use curly. Parsley adds a bright, fresh flavor to the dish.
- Grated Cheese: The recipe below calls for freshly grated Parmesan cheese, however you can also use Pecorino Romano. Both will add a delicious saltiness to the dish. Pecorino will lend a nuttier flavor.
- Whole Milk Ricotta: Ricotta cheese is the what makes up the thick and creamy (but not heavy) sauce. If you want a healthier dish, you can substitute 1/2 cup of the ricotta for whole-milk plain Greek yogurt! Note: Make sure you use whole milk ricotta! Lower-fat versions of ricotta can result in a less cohesive sauce.
- Breadcrumbs: This is the secret ingredient! The toasted breadcrumbs add a ton of crunchy texture and also help capture the delicious ricotta sauce!
- Pine nuts: If you have never had pine nuts in pasta, you are missing out! Once toasted they add a buttery, mild sweetness to the pasta.
Want to make a few changes or additions to this one pot pasta with broccoli recipe? Wonderful – I encourage you to make this recipe your own! Get creative or simply eliminate the ingredients you don’t like and substitute the ones you love! Below are a few easy ideas to get you started!
- You can use any type of pasta: While I typically use linguine in this recipe, you can use any type of pasta you prefer! Just make sure you cook the pasta to al dente according to directions on the package. Do not overcook your pasta!
- You can use any type of dried breadcrumbs you would like in the recipe below. I used panko breadcrumbs because I like their texture and size best.
- Protein: If you are looking to transform this dish into a heartier meal try adding some cooked chicken, salmon, tuna, crispy bacon, sliced prosciutto, sausage or crispy chickpeas!
- Vegetables: Are you looking to sneak even more veggies into your family’s diet?! Try tossing in some cauliflower, zucchini, sliced mushrooms, carrots, brussels sprouts or bell peppers!
- Nuts: A crunchy element is a must in this house, so we love adding pine nuts or almonds to this broccoli pasta!
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs are the perfect way to add fresh flavor! Try garnishing your pasta with basil, cilantro, green onions, oregano, parsley and/or thyme for a burst of bright flavor!
- Seasonings: Seasonings are a great way to customize this pasta to your specific taste! Try adding in some fresh garlic, crushed red pepper flakes or Italian seasoning!
- Cheese: Is it even pasta if you don’t add some type of cheese!? We love adding white cheddar, feta, goat, mozzarella or parmesan to this dish!
- Pantry: If you are looking to clean out your pantry, try adding in some anchovies, capers, roasted red bell peppers or sun-dried tomatoes!
Broccoli or broccolini for pasta?
Both broccoli and broccolini are close relatives of cabbage. While broccolini might look like a baby broccoli, it is not.
Broccoli, with its thick stalks and rounded florets has a grassy, earthy flavor that is mildly bitter.
Broccolini, on the other hand, is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. This hybrid has longer stalks, smaller florets, and compared to broccoli, broccolini has a milder and sweeter earthy flavor.
Can broccoli and broccolini be used interchangeably in pasta?
You can use broccoli or broccolini interchangeably in this recipe!
Are you looking for new and exciting ways to serve your pasta and broccoli? Below are a few of my family’s favorite ways to serve and enjoy this recipe!
What to serve with creamy broccoli pasta?
- Bread: Serving pasta without some sort of bread for sopping is a no-no! My family loves garlic knots, cheesy breadsticks, crusty artisan bread and fluffy dinner rolls!
- Soup: Any lighter, broth-based soup such as minestrone or vegetable soup
- Green Salad: A light green salad is a great way to balance out creamy pasta!
- Italian Salad: A hearty chopped Italian salad is a great option if you are looking for a green salad with a little more heft and heartiness!
- Tomato Salad: A fresh, juicy tomato salad is a great way to use up fresh tomatoes in the summer season!
- Bruschetta: Fresh and flavorful bruschetta is a classic Italian starter or side that works beautifully with lemon broccoli pasta!
- Artichokes: Simple artichoke hearts with a touch of lemon are always a fan favorite!
- Mushrooms: Saute your favorite variety of mushrooms for an easy side that will add a touch of meaty flavor to your dinner spread!
- Asparagus: Tender-crisp asparagus is so easy to prepare and it’s mild, earthy flavor contrasts the richness of the pasta beautifully!
- Cauliflower: Roasted or steamed cauliflower dusted with parmesan is a favorite side dish in this house!
How to make the creamy lemon broccoli pasta at home?
This creamy pasta is easy to make and can be prepared in under 30 minutes!
- Make ricotta mixture: In the bowl of a food processor, add the ricotta, lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (if using). Process the mixture until the ricotta is incredibly smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed, about 40 seconds. Alternately, you can mix the ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta to al dente according to package directions. During the last 3-4 minutes of cooking, remove and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then add the broccoli to the water.
- While the pasta is cooking: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium to medium-heat. Add in the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl and add in the lemon zest and parsley. Mix well and set aside.
- Drain the pasta and broccoli and return both right back to the pot. Set the pot over low heat. Add the ricotta mixture and enough of the pasta water to create a sauce. Add the breadcrumbs and toss throughout.
- To serve: Divide the pasta among serving plates. Top with pine nuts and parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!
How to make pasta with broccoli step by step photos
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
Expert tips for the best creamy broccoli pasta recipe
- Make sure you use a good-quality, whole milk ricotta cheese! You will be mixing the ricotta with a bit of pasta cooking water to make a sauce, so don’t skimp on the quality of ricotta cheese!
- Cook the pasta to al dente! Don’t overcook your pasta or you will end up with mushy, gummy broccoli pasta!!
- Don’t overcook the broccoli! Add the broccoli to the pot with the pasta during the last 2-4 minutes and cook it until it’s just tender and bright green in color. The precise amount of time the broccoli needs to cook depends upon how small (or large) you cut your florets and how soft you prefer your broccoli.
- Reserve some of the pasta water! Make sure you reserve a cup of pasta cooking water! You need the starchy water to form a sauce!
- Add a little heat! While I list red pepper flakes are as an option, I highly recommend adding at least a pinch! The heat from the pepper flakes cuts through the creaminess of the pasta and adds a little something special!
- Taste and adjust! Always make sure you taste the pasta and adjust it for seasoning (salt, pepper, lemon, more pasta water) before serving!
When it comes to food storage and storing leftovers, safety is of the utmost importance! Make sure you follow the simple tips below for properly storing and reheating broccoli cheese pasta!
How to store pasta with broccoli?
This broccoli pasta recipe makes enough for four people, so depending upon the size (and appetite) of your family, you won’t likely have any leftovers! However, if you do, this pasta stores beautifully!
To store pasta broccoli, first allow the pasta to cool completely to room temperature –do not leave the pasta out on the counter for more than 1 hour to ensure safety and prevent growth of bacteria! Once cool, store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
How to reheat quick broccoli pasta?
Creamy pasta with broccoli is best when eaten fresh; however, you can reheat it as long as you do so gently!
- Stovetop: Transfer the pasta medium skillet or sauce-pot. Place the skillet over medium-low to low heat and reheat, stirring occasionally, until warm throughout. Note: You may want to add a splash or broth, stock or cream at the beginning of reheating to keep the pasta moist and the sauce fresh!
- Microwave: Add an individual portion of leftover pasta to a microwave-safe container. Add a splash of broth, stock or cream to keep the pasta moist and the sauce fresh! Place a lid on the container, leaving the lid slightly cracked at the side to form a vent. Reheat for 45-second intervals stirring in between, until the pasta is warm throughout. Please note, make sure you microwave in short increments, or at a lower power, to avoid overheating the crab!
Can I freeze this?
While you can freeze creamy pasta with broccoli, I do not recommend it! Freezing and thawing the ricotta sauce will change both the texture and taste of this pasta!
Quick and easy to prepare, yet creamy, dreamy and full of fresh flavor, this pasta with broccoli sauce is sure to be a weeknight dinner winner!
Until next time, friends, cheers – to oodles of creamy noodles!
Looking for more broccoli recipes?
If you love this creamy broccoli pasta, try one of these delicious recipes next:
Recipe testimonials – What people are saying about this recipe
See below to find out what readers are saying about this tried and true Broccoli pasta recipe!
- “Delicious!” – Shalyce
- “[I] added chicken. So good!” – Jessica
- “Hi Cheyenne, made this for the first time tonight. This darn quarantine cooking is killing me! All I want is comfort food even though it’s getting close to summer. This recipe is so good. Definitely a keeper. Thank you for all your great recipes. I still have plenty of time to play with food. I’m a hairdresser sooo, at least two and a half more weeks till I can go back. Keep the recipes coming!” – Becky
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The best Broccoli Pasta recipe plus step-by-step video👇
Easy Creamy Broccoli Pasta
- Small mixing bowl
- Large Pot
- Large, Straight-Sided Skillet
- 12 ounces Linguine - or Spaghetti (SEE NOTES)
- ½ pound Broccoli – cut into florets (SEE NOTES)
- 1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ Cup Dried Breadcrumbs (SEE NOTES)
- 1 whole Lemon – zest and juice, divided
- 2 TBS Fresh Parsley – chopped, plus more for serving
- 1 1/3 Cups Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese (SEE NOTES)
- 2 TBS Pine Nuts - toasted
- ¼ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan - plus more for serving
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
- Optional for serving: Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Lemon Wedges
- Make ricotta mixture (SEE NOTES): In the bowl of a food processor, add the ricotta, lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (if using). Process the mixture until the ricotta is incredibly smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed, about 40 seconds. Alternately, you can mix the ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
- Boil pasta, then add broccoli: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta to al dente according to package directions. During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking (SEE NOTES), remove and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then add the broccoli to the water and continue until pasta is al dente and broccoli is tender-crisp.
- While the pasta is cooking, toast breadcrumbs: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium to medium-heat. Add in the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Transfer to a small bowl and add in the lemon zest and parsley. Mix well and set aside.
- Drain the pasta and broccoli and return both right back to the pot. Set the pot over low heat. Add the ricotta mixture and enough of the pasta water to create a sauce (SEE NOTES).
- To serve: Divide the pasta among serving plates. Top with the breadcrumbs, pine nuts and parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!
- Pasta: While I used a long variety of pasta (linguine), you can use any type of pasta you prefer! Just make sure you cook the pasta until *JUST* al dente according to directions on the package. Do not overcook your pasta!
- Breadcrumbs: You can use any type of dried breadcrumbs you would like in the recipe below. I used panko breadcrumbs because I like their texture and size best.
- Ricotta: Make sure you use a good-quality, whole milk ricotta cheese! Low-fat versions can result in a less cohesive, thin sauce.
- To mix ricotta: If you have a food processor, I recommend using it for the ricotta mixture. Whipping the ricotta mixture will transform it from lumpy to luxuriously light and airy!
- Broccoli cooking time: I like my broccoli tender-crisp. If you want really tender broccoli, add the broccoli to the boiling water earlier. If you are using broccolini, roughly chop it before proceeding with the recipe.
- Pasta water: While you should always make a recipe your own, and I encourage you to add as little, or enough pasta water to create a sauce as thick, or thin, as you prefer. With that said, in case you need an approximation, I used about 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water.
- Red pepper flakes: While the crushed red pepper flakes are listed as an option, I highly recommend adding at least a pinch! The heat from the pepper flakes cuts through the creaminess of the pasta and adds a little something special!
- Leftovers: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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