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Authentic Broccoli Pasta from Italy! A simple, delicious vegetarian recipe for Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce – full of flavor and nutrients! Video. See our 20+ BEST Broccoli Recipes!
We rise by lifting others. ― R. Ingersoll
After taking a week-long cooking class in Italy, my friend Mark brought back this traditional Tuscan recipe and made it for his wife. Truth be told when my friend Sonna first described it to me- how the broccoli was cooked down for a long time, I had some reservations.
The thought of mushy broccoli seemed really off-putting, but as she continued describing how luscious and creamy the broccoli sauce became once it cooked down for a while, and the way the orecchiette pasta cradled it so lovingly, my interest was piqued.
So this became our dinner last night, and I must say, it was delicious! And a whole lot of broccoli went into this!
Broccoli Pasta | 60-sec Video
Ingredients in Broccoli Pasta
- fresh broccoli florets
- pasta- orecchiette pasta- translates to “little ear”. An ear-shaped pasta that literally cradles the sauce. Feel free to use other pasta shapes.
- olive oil
- garlic cloves
- chili flakes (Aleppo or Urfa Biber is nice here)
- salt and pepper
- anchovy paste or sub miso paste (or sub 1-2 mashed anchovies)
- veggie broth or chicken broth
- lemon zest
- freshly grated pecorino cheese– freshly grated is BEST here as pre-grated often has caking agents that prevent the sauce from getting creamy.
- Optional Garnishes: truffle oil, fresh basil ribbons, toasted pine nuts, toasted bread crumbs, or olives.
How to make Broccoli Pasta
Step one: Steam the broccoli, cook the pasta, and save the hot, salted pasta water.
TIP- you could throw the broccoli in a strainer in the boiling pasta water to save time and the extra pot.
I used a whole 12-ounce bag of broccoli florets ( about 6 cups, packed) cut into smaller pieces and then steamed until tender.
Step two: Saute garlic, chili flakes and shallots, in olive oil , when fragrant, add the steamed broccoli and veggie broth, cooking until it falls apart, melts, and cooks down into a sauce (you can help break it apart with a metal spatula).
Take your time here, so the sauce is not grainy, you want the broccoli really soft.
TIP: If the color bothers you blend a cup of the cooked broccoli with a little broth, a splash of olive oil and a handful or two of baby spinach- and stir back into sauce- to brighten this up. Not traditional but does add vibrance.
Step Three: Create depth.
Stir in pecorino cheese, a little anchovie paste if you like, or even miso paste. Add lemon zest. Taste, adjust salt and pepper and get the sauce to taste how you like, loosening the sauce with hot pasta water.
For a smoother sauce, feel free to use your immersion blender here, right in the pan.
Step Four: Add the cooked pasta and again taste for salt. Add a little warm pasta water if you like it looser or saucier.
Step Five: Garnish with lots of chili flakes, lemon zest and more grated pecorino cheese.
Serve it up in your favorite pasta bowl.
Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce should be on your next menu plan- it’s full of great broccoli nutrients and flavor, your kids will love this too!
Other Recipes you may like
- 20+ Fresh Yummy Broccoli Recipes
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- Roasted Broccoli Salad
- Steamed Broccoli with Garlic, Chili & Lemon Zest
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Broccoli Pasta with Orecchiette
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 25
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: vegetarian main
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce – a simple vegetarian pasta dish hailing from Tuscany that is easy to make, healthy and oh so delicious!
- 12 ounces broccoli florets- cut or broken into very small florets about equal size (about 6 cups packed)
- 8 ounces short pasta- orecchiette pasta, penne, rigatoni, etc
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 fat shallot, diced
- 6 garlic cloves- rough chopped
- generous pinch chili flakes ( Aleppo or Urfa biber is nice here)
- generous pinch salt and pepper, more to taste
- 1 teaspoon miso paste (or sub anchovy paste)
- 2 cups veggie broth or chicken broth
- 1–2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/4– 1/2 cup fresh grated pecorino cheese ( please see notes) or fresh parmesan
- Optional Garnish: pecorino cheese, lemon zest, truffle oil, fresh basil ribbons, toasted pine nuts, toasted bread crumbs, capers, truffle oil or kalamata olives– all optional.
- Steam small broccoli florets until very tender (easily pierced with a fork)and set aside.
- Cook the pasta in 8 cups water with 1 tablespoon salt (measure), Save a cup of hot pasta water when you drain.
- In a large pan, saute the shallot and garlic and chili flakes in the olive oil, over medium heat until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the miso paste (or anchovy), then add steamed broccoli, salt, pepper and the broth.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and start breaking apart the broccoli with a metal spatula into tiny pieces. As it cooks it will get easier to break apart. You want the broccoli to melt down into a “sauce ” .
- Stir in 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese. Continue simmering gently on low heat until half of the liquid evaporates and it becomes the consistency of a thick sauce, about 10 minutes.
- At this point, if you like a smoother sauce, feel free to use an immersion blender right in the pan. I did not use one for these photos- but it is an option. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste- you want it on the slightly salty side.
- Add the pasta. Toss well. Add more hot pasta water to keep it ” saucy.” Taste once more for salt, adjust, adding more along with pepper, chili flakes. If you want more richness add another splash of olive oil (or pat of butter- my husband loves this). Stir in more pecorino if you like.
- Divide among pasta bowls and top with any of the garnishes you like!
Always USE freshly grated cheese. Pre-shredded pecorino or parmesan often have “caking agents” in them- that prevent cheese from fully incorporating into a sauce- resulting in unpleasant clumping. The cheese should just melt into the sauce. Always check the label.- some stores offer grated pecorino that they grate on-site without these caking agents.
Sometimes I’ll halve the pasta (if cooking for two) and make this with the same amount of broccoli sauce, boosting the broccoli part. Just sayin’.;)
TIP: If the color bothers you, blend a cup of the cooked broccoli with a little broth, a splash of olive oil and a handful or two of baby spinach- and stir back into sauce- to brighten this up. Not traditional but does add vibrance.
- Serving Size: with the addition of ¾ cup parmesan
- Calories: 351
- Sugar: 3.2 g
- Sodium: 518.3 mg
- Fat: 12.7 g
- Saturated Fat: 3.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 49.2 g
- Fiber: 7.5 g
- Protein: 15.6 g
- Cholesterol: 9.7 mg
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What a great recipe! Made it so many times and my family loves it. Can be varied with different garnishes, I always cook with anchovies, adding parmesan with either breadcrumbs fried in butter or toasted pine nuts. Tastes quite unusual, not your typical broccoli taste, but very comforting and savoury. Thank you for sharing it!
So happy you enjoyed this Ella!
Thanks Sylvia, this was delicious and I really appreciated your comprehensive notes/tips/adaptations. Made it with miso paste and mezzi rigatoni. Will now be saving your page to make some of your other recipes! Best wishes from London, UK!
Thanks so much Sarah! Happy you found us!
How can ‘authentic broccoli pasta from Italy’ contain miso paste!?!?
Hi James, the miso is a substitution for the anchovy paste. Anchovies are traditional, but we try to give alternatives for people are plant-based.
great to hear!
Hi Sylvia–I love your recipes and your entire site, including the spirit-filled poetry and quotes that introduce your creations. I have been learning to cook in the past year, and your recipes have been such a source of inspiration, wisdom, and skill-development for me. Thank you! More specifically, I made this broccoli recipe last night, and we raved about it. So, so good. The lemon zest garnish really enhanced all the flavors. Amazing! You make me feel like a “real” chef!
Thanks Carole! I’m so happy you are enjoying the blog! Glad you liked this one!
After reading all the reviews I had such high hopes for this recipe, but it was not good I’m afraid.
Hi Liz- sorry about that. Just curious, did you make any changes, and just curious if you used pecorino?
This was yummy. It’s a great way to get in veggies, especially broccoli which I don’t eat too often.
So happy you liked it!
Delicious. I highly recommend.
Thanks so much Henry! Glad you enjoyed this one!
Made the 1/2 recipe almost exact but we didn’t have enough broccoli so added parsley and no shallot so some finely diced onion. It was really good – I felt it was as good as any we had in Puglia. The chili flakes make it and gotta love those little ear pasta 🙂
Glad you enjoyed this!
This pasta was fine! It could have benefited from a little extra flavor and texture.
In the recipe notes- there are ways to enhance the flavors- hopefully you saw these?