We definitely love broccoli recipes around here, but one thing we love more is vegetarian pasta recipes… and this one has it all. The broccoli pesto creates a hearty sauce with crisp tender florets throughout. Top it all off with toasted breadcrumbs for an extra burst of texture and get ready to devour!
It’s an easy dinner recipe that will make feeding your family, and or just yourself, on busy weeknights a breeze. You’ll get the veggie, the carb, and some deliciously creamy cheese. No arguing with that!
- Pasta: the best kind of pasta shape for this recipe is one that’s gonna hold the pesto sauce the best. Go for fusilli, rotini, or another corkscrew spiral shape. That being said, you can substitute a shape you have and be a-ok!
- Broccoli: using fresh broccoli florets provides a sweet, mild flavor to the pasta. I do add in a few stems here and there for less food waste, but they can become bitter if you use too many. Frozen broccoli will have a more watery result.
- Basil: the key component for homemade pesto! If you’re making this recipe in the winter and prefer to add another herb for budget consideration, substitute half with fresh parsley.
- Almonds or Walnuts: into the pesto. Of course, you can use pine nuts as traditionally used.
- Fresh Lemon: use both the zest and juice for a bright flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese: if you’re a strict vegetarian, be sure to get a brand of vegetarian parmesan cheese that’s made with microbial enzymes.
- Garlic: a little garlic in the pesto goes a long way!
- Olive Oil: high-quality olive oil will give the best flavor since it’s a substantial component in the pesto.
Let’s Make Broccoli Pasta!
There are two parts to making this broccoli pesto pasta: making the broccoli pesto and making the pasta. To start, prepare a large stock pot of boiling salted water which will be used to blanch the broccoli and cook the pasta.
Blend the Broccoli Pesto
I recommend balancing the broccoli before making the pesto to enhance the texture and flavor. I have skipped this step before and the raw broccoli flavor is more pronounced. Just a note to keep in mind if you decide to skip this step.
Because you’ll need boiling water for the pasta, too, this step doesn’t actually require much more work and is seamless.
Place the florets for the pesto into the boiling water and cook for just a minute or so; when the broccoli is bright green you’ll want to remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon. Keep the water going for the pasta!
Transfer the florets to a food processor with the remaining pesto ingredients, except for the olive oil. Pulse until combined, and continue blending while drizzling in the oil until combined. I recommend finishing the pesto a little extra salty since it is the source of our flavor for the pasta.
Cook the Pasta and Broccoli
With the pot of salted water boiling from broccoli round one, add the pasta. With about 5 minutes remaining according to the package instructions, add the remaining broccoli. As the pasta finishes cooking to al dente, the broccoli will also become tender.
Reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
Drain the noodles and broccoli, then return to the pot along with the batch of freshly made broccoli pesto. Stir to combine, adding pasta water to thin out the pesto. The starch in the water will also help it stick to each and every crevice of the noodles.
Before serving, add another squeeze of fresh lemon juice as desired. I highly recommend a garnish of fresh basil leaves and maybe some shavings of parmesan cheese if you’re feeling a little extra…cheesy!
The other component of this recipe I recommend: toasted breadcrumbs (with the option of parmesan, too). They come together in just minutes and add a lovely buttery, crunchy texture to the pasta. The perfect finish (just like with homemade mac and cheese!).
As far as pairings with this pasta are concerned, it’s hearty enough to stand on its own with the veggie, but it can easily work as a side dish with baked fish or chicken for meat eaters. Serve it with a simple side salad with our 2-minute balsamic vinaigrette or steamed carrots.
Storage & Reheating Tips
This is a pasta dish that I find is best served fresh. However, if you have leftovers you can reheat them to *almost* day-of texture and flavor, as long as you add a little moisture back.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. If you have pasta water left over, pour a little into the container before storing it. This way, if you reheat it in the microwave, the little extra liquid will help refresh the sauce and prevent it from drying out further.
You can also reheat it on the stovetop with extra milk, cream, or even regular water.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Easy Broccoli Pesto Pasta with Broccoli Florets
- 16 ounces fusilli pasta, or pasta of choice
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs, optional
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place 2 cups of broccoli florets and blanch, cooking for around 1 minute. Remove from water with a slotted spoon, and keep the water boiling for the pasta.2 cups broccoli florets
- Add blanched broccoli, basil, almonds, garlic, lemon zest and juice, parmesan cheese, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a coarse mixture forms. Drizzle in the olive oil while blending until combined. The pesto should be a little extra salty since it's what will add flavor to the pasta dish.½ cup basil leaves, ¼ cup almonds or walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Tablespoon lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon fine salt, ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water. When 5 minutes remain on the package cook time, add the remaining 3 cups of broccoli to the pot.3 cups broccoli florets, 16 ounces fusilli pasta
- Reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and broccoli, then return them to the pot with the broccoli pesto. Start with adding 1/2 cup pasta water and stir to combine together; add additional pasta water as needed.1 cup reserved pasta water
- Serve with an extra squeeze of fresh lemon juice, parsley shavings, and fresh basil. Top with toasted breadcrumbs as desired.1 cup toasted breadcrumbs