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!
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
Table of Contents
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.
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 Broccoli FAQS
Broccoli that has been steamed and blended (optional) with broth, garlic, lemon zest and chili flakes.
Orecchiette translates to “little ear”. An ear-shaped pasta that literally cradles the sauce.
Lemon, pecorino and parmesan cheese, pine nuts, walnuts, garlic, onion, shallots, basil, bread crumbs, and olives.
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!
- Steamed Broccoli with Garlic, Chili & Lemon Zest
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Orecchiette 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) then chop 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 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.
- 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