Orecchiette pasta with broccoli sauce is a delicious and satisfying dish - perfect for a weeknight dinner or a casual meal with friends. The unique shape of orecchiette pasta, which means "little ears" in Italian, is the perfect vessel for a rich and flavorful broccoli sauce.
The broccoli pasta recipe is easy to prepare in one pan and comes together quickly. The combination of tender pasta, nutty broccoli, and savory cheese sauce is sure to please any palate and is a great way to get your daily dose of vegetables.
❤️ Why I love this recipe
- Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce is a vegetable-carb dish, perfect for a quick and delicious midweek dinner.
- Even those who don’t enjoy broccoli will love this dish!
- Simple ingredients and one pan, ready in only 30 minutes!
This easy one-pan pasta dish is delicious and healthy, combining a winning combination of textures and flavors without much time or effort!
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Note: The full list of this recipe ingredients with their amounts and options are listed in the recipe card below.
- fresh broccoli
- orecchiette pasta - may also use short pasta like penni, rigatoni, farfalle, etc.
- olive oil
- red pepper flakes
- anchovy paste -- gives the dish a depth of flavor but does not taste fishy
- vegetable broth -- may also use chicken broth
- lemon zest -- adds an additional layer of flavor
- freshly grated pecorino cheese - may also use parmesan cheese
Note: This is an overview of the instructions. The full instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Steam the broccoli florets until very tender and set aside.
- Cook the pasta in a deep pot with about 8 cups of water and salt. Set aside.
- In a large pan over medium heat, saute the shallot, garlic, and chili pepper flakes in olive oil until golden and fragrant (about 3 minutes). Mix in the anchovy paste, followed by broccoli, salt, pepper, and broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and mash the broccoli.
- Stir in ¼ cup of the grated cheese and continue to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until half of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture turns into a thick sauce.
- Add the pasta to the pan and toss well. Add more pasta water to the mix to keep the mixture creamy and saucy. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve with a sprinkle of lemon zest and a little extra grated cheese.
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You’ll need the following items to make this recipe successfully.
- sharp knife -- dicing the shallot, chopping the garlic, cutting the broccoli
- cutting board -- a solid surface for cutting and dicing
- cheese grater -- for grating the pecorino or parmesan cheese
- deep skillet -- cooking the pasta and broccoli
- liquid measuring cup -- for measuring the vegetable broth
These are the questions we are most frequently asked about making Creamy Broccoli Pasta Recipe.
This dish consists of tender broccoli florets, sauteed shallots in garlic, olive oil, red chili pepper flakes, anchovy paste, vegetable broth, salt and pepper, small shell pasta, grated pecorino cheese, and a sprinkling of lemon zest.
This dish includes broccoli, shallots, and garlic as vegetables.
Garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes are all great to pair with broccoli. Other complementary flavors include ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and balsamic vinegar.
Spaghetti Bolognaise, lasagne, and fettuccine Alfredo.
- You can steam the broccoli florets in a vegetable steamer or a microwave-safe bowl with a little water and cover it with plastic wrap, poking with holes, and cook in 30-second increments.
- Saving a cup of cooked pasta water is essential so that extra pasta water can be added to the pasta mixture to help keep it creamy and saucy.
- Only cook the pasta al dente. The pasta will continue to cook when added back to the skillet.
- Only use freshly grated cheese. Store-bought pre-grated cheese doesn’t melt well, which can result in clumps in the sauce, and doesn’t taste as good as freshly grated cheese.
- Add a hint of lemon juice at the end for an extra burst of flavor. This would be especially good if you don’t garnish your servings with lemon zest.
- For a super smooth sauce, use an immersion blender right in the pan before adding the pasta.
- I’ve used small pieces of ear-shaped pasta (known as Orecchiette), but you can use other small shell-shaped pasta, small tubular pasta, or bowtie pasta.
- Increase the heat in this dish by adding extra red chili pepper flakes into the sauce or cayenne pepper.
- Miso paste can be used instead of anchovy paste.
- Use fresh parmesan instead of pecorino.
- I’ve garnished this pasta dish with lemon zest. Still, you could also include the following garnish ideas: a drizzle of truffle oil, fresh basil ribbons, toasted pine nuts, toasted bread crumbs, capers, or kalamata olives.
- For a richer-tasting sauce, add extra olive oil or a pat of butter.
- Add protein to this dish, such as cooked Italian sausage.
Store this Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. I don’t recommend freezing this dish as the texture of the pasta, and the consistency of the sauce can change from the thawing and freezing.
📗 Related Recipes
- Orecchiette With Spicy Shrimp Sauce - A very similar dish using Orecchiette pasta but with the addition of juicy shrimp in a spicy sauce.
- Creamy Zucchini Sauce - Another vegetable-based sauce with melted Parmesan and pasta.
- Spinach Tortellini In Light Homemade Alfredo Sauce - A delicious vegetable-rich pasta meal coated in Parmesan sauce and tossed with sun-dried tomatoes.
🍽 Serve with
📞 Chiacchierata (chat)
This Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce is made at least a couple of times in my house during any given month! It’s easy to make, loaded with mouth-watering flavor, makes for minimal cleanup, and is a great way to get the family to eat fiber-rich broccoli with no complaints!
Tutti a tavolo, è pronto!
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📝 Recipe Card
One-pan Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce is an easy midweek dinner option made with tender broccoli cheese sauce and little ear-shaped pasta. Serve with a sprinkling of lemon zest with a piece of crusty bread or side salad.
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Quick and Easy Orecchiette With Creamy Broccoli Sauce
- 6 cups fresh broccoli florets * (see notes) about 12 ounces
- 8 oz. orecchiette any short pasta will work such as penne, rigatoni.
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 shallot diced (if the shallots are small use 2)
- 6 garlic cloves chopped
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes may use more if you like it spicy
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 2 cups vegetable broth or stock may use chicken broth but it won't be vegetarian if you do
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest divided
- ½ cup grated pecorino cheese divided (may substitute freshly grated parmesan cheese)
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the Broccoli
- Steam the broccoli florets until very tender. You may do this in a vegetable steamer or in the microwave. ( see notes for microwave steaming). Set aside when done.
Cook the Pasta
- In a deep pot cook the pasta in 8 cups of water with 1 Tablespoons of salt. Follow the box directions. Save a one cup of the pasta water when the pasta is cooked al dente and before you drain the pasta. Set aside.
Making the sauce
- In a large deep pan over medium heat sauté the shallot, garlic and chili pepper flakes in the olive oil until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the anchovy paste, then add the steamed broccoli, kosher salt, black pepper and the vegetable broth.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and start mashing the broccoli with a stiff silicone spatula. As it cooks it will get easier to mash up the florets. You want the broccoli to melt into a delicious creamy sauce.
- Stir in ¼ cup of the grated pecorino cheese. Continue to simmer gently on low heat until half of the liquid evaporates in the liquid turns into the consistency of a thick sauce. This will take about 10 minutes.
- If you'd like a really smooth sauce, use an immersion blender right in the pan. Taste and season with a bit more salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Toss well. Add a bit more of the hot pasta water you reserved. You DO want to keep the broccoli creamy and saucy. Taste and if necessary add more salt, pepper and pepper flakes. For additional richness you may also add a bit more olive oil or a pat of butter.
- Serve the pasta with a sprinkle of lemon zest and a bit more pecorino cheese.