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A simple delicious vegetarian recipe for Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce – full of flavor and nutrients!
We rise by lifting others. ― R. Ingersoll
After taking a week-long cooking class in Italy, a friend brought back this traditional Tuscan recipe with him and made it for his wife. Truth be told, when my friend Sonna first mentioned it, how the broccoli was cooked down for a ling 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 actually became, 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!
OrEchiette with Broccoli Sauce | 60-sec Video
Ingredients in Broccoli Pasta
- fresh broccoli florets
- pasta- orecchiette pasta, penne, rigatoni, etc
- olive oil
- garlic cloves
- chili flakes (Aleppo or Urfa Biber is nice here)
- salt and pepper
- anchovy paste or miso paste (or sub 1-2 mashed anchovies)
- veggie broth or chicken broth
- lemon zest
- fresh 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.
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, 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 break it apart with a metal spatula).
Step Three: Create depth.
Stir in some pecorino cheese, a little anchovies 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 it 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
- Orecchiette with Creamy Carrot Miso Sauce
- Roasted Broccoli Salad
- 15-Minute Broccoli with Garlic, Chili & Lemon Zest
- Pasta with Broccolini, Preserved Lemon and Chickpeas
- 40 Best Pasta Recipes
- Vegan Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Sauce
- 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’.;)
- 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
Keywords: Orecchiette Pasta, Orecchiette, broccoli pasta, broccoli pasta recipes, orecchiette pasta recipe, broccoli recipes, vegetarian pasta recipes, healthy pasta recipes, vegetarian broccoli pasta
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?