Authentic Broccoli Pasta from Italy! A simple, delicious vegetarian recipe for Orecchiette with Broccoli Sauce – full of flavor and nutrients! Video. See our 20+ BEST Broccoli Recipes!

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple vegetarian pasta dish hailing from Tuscany that is easy to make, healthy and oh so delicious!| #Orecchiette #broccolipasta #orechiettepasta #broccolirecipes #vegetarian #pastarecipes #healthypastarecipes |www.feastingathome.com #feastingathome

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!

Here is another delicious pasta dish you may love as mush as we do, Pasta Primavera!

Broccoli Pasta | 60-sec Video

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple vegetarian pasta dish hailing from Tuscany that is easy to make, healthy and oh so delicious!| #Orecchiette #broccolipasta #orechiettepasta #broccolirecipes #vegetarian #pastarecipes #healthypastarecipes |www.feastingathome.com #feastingathome

ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI Ingredient Notes

  • Orecchiette pasta- translates to “little ear”.  An ear-shaped pasta that literally cradles the sauce. Feel free to use other pasta shapes.
  • Chili flakes – for a milder flavor try Aleppo or Urfa Biber.
  •  Anchovy paste- for a vegan option, sub miso paste (or sub 1-2 mashed whole anchovies)
  •  Veggie broth or chicken broth
  •  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.

See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.     

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • It is packed with nutrition! Lots of broccoli in the sauce along with garlic, lemon and chili flakes. Good clean ingredients!
  • Easy to make! Steam broccoli, sauté aromatics, combine (blend if a smooth sauce is desired), serve over cooked pasta with pecorio.
  • Tasty and Creamy! It has a velvety mouth feel without tons of added fat. Kids like this sauce too!

How to make Broccoli Pasta

Step one: Steam the broccoli, cook the pasta, and save the hot, salted pasta water.

TIP: 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.

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple vegetarian pasta dish hailing from Tuscany that is easy to make, healthy and oh so delicious!| #Orecchiette #broccolipasta #orechiettepasta #broccolirecipes #vegetarian #pastarecipes #healthypastarecipes |www.feastingathome.com

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.

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple vegetarian pasta dish hailing from Tuscany that is easy to make, healthy and oh so delicious!| #Orecchiette #broccolipasta #orechiettepasta #broccolirecipes #vegetarian #pastarecipes #healthypastarecipes |www.feastingathome.com

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.

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple Italian vegetarian pasta that is full of flavor and nutrients! | www.feastingathome.com

Step Five: Garnish with lots of chili flakes, lemon zest and more grated pecorino cheese.

Serve it up in your favorite pasta bowl.

Orecchiette Broccoli FAQS

What is broccoli sauce made of?

Broccoli that has been steamed and blended (optional) with broth, garlic, lemon zest and chili flakes.

Why is this pasta called orecchiette?

Orecchiette translates to “little ear”.  An ear-shaped pasta that literally cradles the sauce.

What flavors go good with pasta and broccoli?

Lemon, pecorino and parmesan cheese, pine nuts, walnuts, garlic, onion, shallots, basil, bread crumbs, and olives.

What to Serve With Orecchiette Broccoli

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!

More Recipes You May Like

xoxo

Sylvia

Love this recipe? Please let us know in the comments and leave a 5-star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating below the recipe card.

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Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple Italian vegetarian pasta that is full of flavor and nutrients! | www.feastingathome.com

Orecchiette with Broccoli

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.6 from 121 reviews
  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: vegetarian main
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Orecchiette Broccoli Sauce – a simple vegetarian pasta dish hailing from Tuscany that is easy to make, healthy and oh so delicious!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 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
  • 12 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/41/2 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.

Instructions

  1. Steam small broccoli florets until very tender (easily pierced with a fork) then chop and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta in 8 cups water with 1 tablespoon salt (measure),  Save a cup of hot pasta water when you drain.
  3. 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.
  4. Bring to a gentle simmer and break apart the broccoli with a metal spatula into tiny pieces. As it cooks and softens it will get easier to break apart. You want the broccoli to melt down into a “sauce ” – take your time here, adding more liquid as needed.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. Divide among pasta bowls and top with any of the garnishes you like!

Notes

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.

Nutrition

  • 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
Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce - a simple vegetarian Pasta dish hailing from Tuscany. #Orecchiette | www.feastingathome.com

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Comments

    1. Hi Larisa- sorry to hear this. There is a little tip in the recipe to add a handful of baby spinach to the blender to make the sauce more vibrant green.

  1. This recipe is absolutely delicious! It’s my new favourite pasta dish to make and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
    My favourite way to make it is with anchovies and to blend half of the broccoli sauce to make it creamy. The toasted pine nuts really escalate it too.
    Thanks so much!






  2. I just made this for the third time, and it is so very delicious. We also adore the orecchiette with creamy carrot miso sauce! Both are so unique and absolutely wonderful as well as fun to make. By the way, Sylvia, did you post your recommendation for a knife sharpener? I may have missed it!

    1. Great to hear Carole! Yes, I added a link to our Splurge-Worthy Kitchen Tools post at the bottom. My husband loves that sharpener!

  3. I enjoyed making this! I couldn’t get my anchovy paste open (?) so appreciated having the miso option for umami flavor. I thought this Tuscan gem was a really fun recipe to know about- a creative and fresh addition. I went for extra broccoli sauce as suggested and added pine nuts on top, which were DELICIOUS. I also had the Barilla high protein + pasta in rotini format- my husband is Italian and approves of this pasta. Great for vegetarian meals 🙂






  4. So good and so easy. I steamed broccoli til very very soft. And it was a cinch to make sauce. We luv it ty again. Lots of crushed peppers 😋

  5. Difficult to make the brocolli sauce by simmering brocolli . Took forever so I said screw it and put it all in the blender and then back in the pan. Without blending, the sauce will be gritty/course. Just use frozen steamable brocolli and your blender . end product was good






    1. Hey Jess, yes it takes a while for the broccoli to cook down- but a workaround is using an immersion blender (right in the pan) works great too. If it is gritty, it may be the cheese you are using has a binder in it and is not fully incorporated. Most grated cheeses that you buy have these binders- check the label- I usually grate my own block in a food processor.

    2. Totally agree with Jess. It took forever for the broccoli to break down. In fact it never really turned into a sauce.






      1. Hi Kevin, sorry about that. Did you see the note to use an immersion blender if needed? It takes some time to get the sauce to melt together, but if in a hurry, the immersion blender is a quick time saver.

    3. Just put the broccoli in a streamer basket. It will get soft and ready to go. Keep it simple! Remember this recipe from my mom making it back in the 60’s. I don’t use lemon zest but white wine when making. Thanks, Sylvia for a great recipe!






  6. 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!






  7. 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!






    1. 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.

  8. 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!

    1. Thanks Carole! I’m so happy you are enjoying the blog! Glad you liked this one!

  9. After reading all the reviews I had such high hopes for this recipe, but it was not good I’m afraid.






    1. Hi Liz- sorry about that. Just curious, did you make any changes, and just curious if you used pecorino?

  10. 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 🙂






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