Pasta with Broccoli and Garlic is a one-pot meal ready in 45 minutes! The veggies are cooked down until they coat the pasta in a delicious broccoli sauce with olive oil and Parmesan. You'll love this authentic Italian recipe from Naples!
For the love of broccoli, you need to make this! My family's pasta with broccoli recipe is one of our favorites.
Like them, this Italian broccoli pasta is a cross between soup and a pasta dish.
It's made with just enough water to cook the macaroni without draining it. By the time you ladle out the servings, most of the liquid will be absorbed.
But the broccoli gets cooked down into a broccoli sauce accented with garlic, olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. The starchy sauce will cling to the pasta, coating it with garlicky goodness.
Broccoli: Use fresh broccoli or frozen. If you're using frozen broccoli, you don't have to thaw it first.
Pasta: I usually make rigatoni with broccoli, but you can use any medium-cut pasta such as ziti, penne, rotini, farfalle, etc. that takes about 12 minutes to cook.
Don't use cavatelli here, because it only needs 3-4 minutes to cook. That's not enough time to allow the water to evaporate and to let the broccoli cook down into a sauce for this one-pot method. You'll end up with a watery dish that doesn't have enough flavor.
Garlic: Use fresh, sliced garlic. It adds a delicious, savory flavor to the broccoli pasta.
Parmesan: I recommend using fresh, finely grated Parmesan so it melts nicely in the broccoli sauce.
How to make pasta with broccoli
See the card at the end of this post for the full recipe, but here's an overview.
Cut the broccoli
If starting with a bunch of fresh broccoli, you'll need to cut off the thick stalks (and discard them) so you have florets with 2-3 inches of the stems attached (see the ingredients photo.)
Slice any thicker stems lengthwise in half.
Cook the broccoli and pasta
While there's a time and place for crisp-tender broccoli, this is not that time nor that place!
- Sauté the garlic in oil and add the broccoli. Cook the broccoli until it's soft, or at least tender.
- Add the measured water and bring the pan to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the pasta.
- Cook the pasta until it's al dente. Don't drain it. Stir in the Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
- The longer you cook the broccoli initially, the more it will later almost dissolve into a broccoli sauce that will coat the pasta, as pictured in the pot above.
- If you prefer firmer broccoli, you can sauté it until it's tender, but not soft. It will look more like the photo below after it's boiled with the pasta.
- Make sure not to add too much water to the pot. You need to measure it according to the recipe, or else the dish will turn out watery.
- To ensure the pasta cooks evenly, stir the pot (affiliate link) often.
What to serve with it
Frequently asked questions
It's best to eat this dish immediately because the leftovers will get dry. But you can store this Parmesan broccoli pasta in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Don't freeze it, or the pasta will become mushy.
You can reheat pasta with broccoli in the microwave. Drizzle on some olive oil first, so it won't be dry. Then cover it with wax paper.
You also could reheat this in a covered pan on the stove. Add olive oil or butter first.
More Italian pasta dishes
- Pasta Aglio e Olio
- Walnut Sauce for Pasta
- Chicken Pastina Soup
- Fettuccine Carbonara with Pancetta
- Pecorino Pasta with Pepper
Watch the video with volume on to learn how to make Pasta with Broccoli and please leave a comment and rating if you make this!
With my Pasta & Sauces collection, even a beginner can cook like an Italian nonna!
Pasta with Broccoli and Garlic
- 1 bunch broccoli (or 1 pound frozen broccoli florets)
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled & sliced)
- ¼ cup olive oil (plus extra to drizzle on each serving)
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (plus extra for serving)
- ¼ teaspoon plus ⅓ teaspoon salt (divided use)
- 5 ½ cups warm water (divided use)
- 1 pound medium pasta (Such as rigatoni or penne. See notes.)
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping each serving)
- Rinse the broccoli and pat it dry. Cut off the thick stalks (and discard them) so that you have florets with 2-3 inches of the stems attached. Slice any thicker stems lengthwise in half. Slice your garlic into thin rounds.
- Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart pasta pot on medium-high. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn't burn.
- Lower the heat to medium. Noting the time, add broccoli, pepper flakes and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir. As soon as the oil evaporates, add ½ cup water (see notes) and stir.
- Cover the pot and let the broccoli cook until it is soft, stirring occasionally. (See notes.) It should take about 25 minutes from the time you added the broccoli to the pot.
- When the broccoli is soft, add 5 cups of water to the pot. Add in ⅓ teaspoon salt and give it a quick stir. Cover the pan and increase the heat to high. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
- When the pasta is cooked, do not drain it. Turn off the heat and add in ⅓ cup Parmesan, stirring to combine.
- Serve with extra Parmesan, a drizzle of oil and red pepper flakes. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to four days.
- Don't use cavatelli here, because it only needs 3-4 minutes to cook. That's not enough time to allow the water to evaporate and to let the broccoli cook down into a sauce for this one-pot method. You'll end up with a watery dish that doesn't have enough flavor.
- Cooking the broccoli until it's soft helps create a broccoli sauce that coats the pasta. If you prefer the broccoli a bit firmer, sauté it until it's tender, then proceed to add the water to the pot.
- To reduce the amount of olive oil needed, I incorporated the step of adding ½ cup of water to the pot with the broccoli to allow it to cook until soft without burning. If you prefer to use more olive oil instead, just eliminate the ½ cup of water and add enough extra oil to cook the broccoli until it's soft.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom and Nonna's version. Originally published as "Pasta e Broccoli" on November 13, 2014, revised in 2019 and now updated with additional photos and information.