This easy, one-pan broccoli pasta recipe is richly satisfying and boldly flavored. It's a back pocket meal that both kids and adults will love. Garlic, shallots and anchovies (which you won't taste, but which lend an umami richness) lend depth of flavor, while a mess of chopped parsley, lemon zest, pine nuts and grated cheese brightens everything up.
From the moment my daughter Ella could eat solid foods she hated broccoli. That is, until she tried this pasta when she was six years old. It was a lightbulb moment for her (and a "OMG I'm winning at parenting!" moment for me). With its garlicky olive oil sauce and grated salty cheese, the broccoli is completely irresistible. (p.s. It's still one of her favorite meals, six years later!)
Ingredients and swaps:
- Broccoli (you can use cauliflower instead, or do a mix of cauliflower and broccoli)
- Pasta (you can use any pasta shape you like, regular or gluten-free)
- Olive oil
- Shallot and garlic
- Anchovies (the anchovies lend depth of flavor but you won't taste them; however you can omit them for a vegetarian broccoli pasta)
- Sherry vinegar (vinegar brightens up all the flavors; you can use red wine vinegar if you don't have sherry)
- Lemon zest (lemon zest gives the pasta a fresh flavor)
- Pine nuts (toasted pine nuts lend crunch; you can swap them out for toasted sliced almonds)
- Pecorino Romano cheese (I love the salty bite of pecorino cheese with this pasta, but you can go for parmesan instead if you prefer)
How to make broccoli pasta:
- Chop the broccoli: Cut the broccoli tops into small florets. Use your knife to slice away the tough outer skin of the stem (discard), then chop the tender inner stem. Broccoli leaves are also delicious, with a flavor similar to baby kale. Throw them in!
- Cook the broccoli: Sauté garlic, shallots and anchovies in olive oil until fragrant, then add the chopped broccoli. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it's lightly caramelized and tender. Add sherry vinegar and toss to coat. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Make the gremolata: Gremolata is an Italian condiment of chopped herbs, garlic and lemon zest. It's a critical component to this simple broccoli pasta recipe, lending a burst of flavor and texture. Pile parsley, garlic, lemon zest and pine nuts on a cutting board, then chop them all together until everything is evenly incorporated and finely chopped.
- Finish the dish: Add cooked pasta to the pan with the broccoli along with some of the pasta cooking water. Cook over medium heat until the water is reduced and coats the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add a glug of olive oil, the gremolata and a big handful of grated cheese. Toss and serve!
- Don’t be afraid of the anchovies in this broccoli pasta recipe. They lend an umami savoriness, but you won’t really taste them. That being said, you can always omit them if you're vegetarian (or, you can add more if you're a fan!).
- The gremolata is what makes this dish, lending vibrancy and texture. It's also awesome over roasted fish, chicken, braised meats, and/or vegetables. In my book, Build-a-Bowl, I sprinkle it over roasted Brussels sprouts and mushrooms with goat cheese... swoon!
- You'll need a microplane to zest the lemon in this recipe.
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Gremolata is an Italian condiment of chopped herbs, garlic and lemon zest. It's typically served over meat (think osso buco), but it also lends a burst of bright flavor to pasta dishes, soups and stews.
Yes! Broccoli leaves have a flavor similar to kale and can be sautéed or roasted.
It's best to cook broccoli before putting it in pasta. You can either sauté, roast or boil broccoli. In this recipe, the broccoli is sautéed with aromatics to build a delicious pan sauce.
Other vegetable-forward recipes to try:
- Creamy (Vegan!) Swiss Chard Gratin
- Sweet Potato Souffle
- Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Vinaigrette
- Roasted Acorn Squash Wedges with Brown Butter Sauce
- Easy Ratatouille
- Slow Roasted Peppers and Onions
- Red Cabbage and Sweet Corn Coleslaw
I'd love to answer any of your questions and see what you're cooking!! Don't forget to rate this recipe and leave a comment below. Follow along on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube & Pinterest, and be sure to tag @fromscratchfast so that I can share your creations!
Get the recipe!
Broccoli Pasta Recipe with Gremolata
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 medium shallot, minced (2 tablespoons minced)
- 4 large garlic cloves, 3 thinly sliced and 1 minced
- 2-3 anchovy filets (to taste), rinsed and coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ pounds broccoli (about 1 large bunch), cut into small florets, stems peeled and diced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- ½ cup lightly packed parsley leaves
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 pound penne or other shaped pasta (gluten-free or regular)
- 1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
- Red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- In the meantime, place the pine nuts in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
- In the same skillet, add the olive oil, shallot, sliced garlic (reserve the minced garlic) and anchovies. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and garlic are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is lightly caramelized and tender, about 6 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and toss to coat. Remove the pan from the heat and keep warm.
- Pile the parsley, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, and the reserved minced garlic clove on a cutting board. Season with salt and pepper. Chop everything together to make the gremolata—the parsley should be fairly well chopped.
- Once the water reaches a boil, season it with salt and add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain.
- Transfer the pasta to the skillet with the broccoli, along with ½ cup of the reserved cooking water. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the water is reduced and coats the pasta, about 1-2 minutes (add more of the water as needed if the dish looks dry). Remove the pan from the heat and add the gremolata, grated Pecorino, and 1-2 big glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve the pasta with additional Pecorino on the side. If you’d like, sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes.
- Chop the broccoli before cooking the shallots and garlic, since they go fast. Be sure to chop the florets nice and small so that they cook quickly.
- Don’t toss those stems! Broccoli stems are deliciously mild and crunchy. Use your knife to slice away the tough outer skin, then chop the tender inner stem.
- You can eat the leaves too! Broccoli leaves are delicious, with a flavor similar to baby kale. Throw them in.
- Don’t be afraid of the anchovies in this dish, they lend an umami savoriness, but you won’t really taste them. That being said, you can always omit them if you must (or add more if you're a fan).
- The gremolata is what makes this dish, lending it vibrancy and texture. It's also awesome over roasted fish, chicken, braised meats, and/or vegetables. In my book, Build-a-Bowl, I sprinkle it over roasted Brussels sprouts and mushrooms with goat cheese... SWOON!
I really liked this dish. The texture was very satisfying. I think that's partly because of the gremolata and partly from the diced broccoli stems.
Here's a cooking cheat I like to share. Whenever I see Pine Nuts in a recipe, I replace them with Pepitas. That goes for pesto too. Worked in this recipe like a charm.
Nicki Sizemore says
I'm so glad you liked it, Barton, and that's a great tip about swapping in pepitas! Thank you!!
This is such a great recipe! We all love it and so full of vegetables. In addition to the broccoli we also add cauliflower.
Nicki Sizemore says
I love that you added cauliflower as well! I can't wait to try that!
Mary Kahn says
Love this idea of the gremolata- I Look forward to trying! I have the same frustrations with the boys after spending time on a meal I'm sure they will enjoy and instead refuse to try. Although Hudson is an anomaly and actually loves broccoli he despises potatoes of all froms (xfries)- how can that be!?? He's Irish!!
Nicki Sizemore says
Thanks sweetie!! That's hilarious about Hudson! Ella won't eat nut butters in any way shape or form, which to me is completely bonkers since I could happily put peanut butter on anything 🙂
Thank you for this glimmer of hope! My (almost) three year old is on a vegetable strike. We continue to put a variety of things in front of him but he's become so picky lately. I will hang in there (and make this delicious pasta dish in the meantime).
Nicki Sizemore says
How's it going, Sam? I hope you're hanging in there!
Jess Glasscoe says
This looks so simple and so good - and I laughed out loud about "playing it cool" when your kid actually likes something you weren't expecting. Eloise ate an entire plate of a pretty complex pasta dish the other night and I felt like screaming from the rooftops, but you must never show emotion! hahaha. Trying to learn to squash the ego when it comes to this stuff but it's hard not to feel some level of victory when the broccoli is devoured! 🙂
Nicki Sizemore says
I'm so glad you can commiserate! (And I want that pasta recipe you made for Eloise!). Playing it "cool" isn't always my strong suit, but I'm working on it! xoxo