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

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


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


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.


  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!


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