Pasta Broccoli

Pasta Broccoli is a long time family favorite, an authentic Italian pasta recipe made with lots of soft ricotta cheese, basil, broccoli, Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic. It’s a comforting family meal, ready in 30 minutes.

A bowl of Pasta Broccoli

This Pasta Broccoli recipe is a winner. Literally. When my oldest daughter was a freshman her college had a wonderful program called Recipes from Home. They invited parents to send in their family recipes and the best ones would be chosen to be made by the dining hall and served at the college.
You guessed it. This dish won.

I’ll never forget my daughter calling to let me know…she was mortified! I guess having her name on the little plaque in front of the Pasta Broccoli was a touch embarrassing. But as it turned out all her friends loved it, so I was forgiven.

This pasta doesn’t look like much, I admit. It’s homey. But it has a surprising array of flavors and textures for a humble little pasta. I’ve been making this for over 20 years and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love it. I made the ricotta and the pesto from scratch today, but usually I use regular ricotta from the store, and whatever good refrigerated pesto I can find.

The flavor comes from the lemony pesto, really good aged Italian cheese and fresh garlic. The crunch comes from the par-cooked broccoli and the toasted pine nuts. Ricotta cheese gives it a creaminess, and if you slightly under cook the pasta it remains firm and chewy. It’s heaven.

I just noticed the other day that my younger daughter’s college has the same Recipes from Home program. I think I’ll definitely send something in. I mean, it’s only fair, they should each have equal opportunity to be embarrassed from afar.

Pasta Broccoli

To make this pasta extra special, make your own homemade ricotta cheese ~ How To Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese. It takes just 2 ingredients and a few minutes to make your own uber fresh cheese.


Pasta Broccoli
5 from 3 votes

Recipes from Home: Pasta Broccoli

A comforting family meal, ready in 30 minutes!
Course dinner
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Author Sue Moran


  • 3/4 lb pasta a curly or corkscrew shape works well for holding the sauce
  • 1 head of broccoli cut into small florets (at least 2 heaping cups)
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 -- 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup pesto make it fresh or buy the freshest you can
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated aged Italian cheese
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper


  • Cook the pasta until barely al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Microwave the broccoli with a couple of tablespoons of water for 3 minutes, or steam briefly so it is just no longer crunchy, and is bright green.
  • Drizzle the oil in the same pot you cooked the pasta in. Saute the garlic for a minute and then add the broccoli. Stir and cook just a minute to infuse the garlic flavor.
  • Put the pasta back in the pan, and add in the ricotta. If you are using store-bought ricotta it will melt down a bit in the hot pan. For a creamier sauce you can add in a little milk, cream, or pasta water to thin the cheese. If you are using fresh ricotta it won't melt, but that's ok.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the pesto, salt, pepper, grated cheese and lemon. Mix well and check the seasoning, it takes a fair amount of salt. Top with the toasted pine nuts.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.


  • Like so many dishes, the success of this recipe depends on your ingredients. The only times I have ever been unhappy with this pasta is when I used a ready made (non-refrigerated) pesto from a jar. Avoid that and you should be ok.
    Remember that pesto in an uncooked sauce, so take the pan off the heat when you add it, otherwise the color and flavor will dissipate quickly.

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

    So, should this pasta be served immediately when it’s still warm, or can it be made a day ahead and served as a cold pasta salad?

    • Reply
      November 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      It’s a hot pasta, Sherri.

    • Reply
      October 31, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      We always serve it hot, Sherri.

  • Reply
    Sarah (Snippets of Thyme)
    February 7, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Just looking at the list of ingredients assures the yumminess of taste. Such a fun story about the college program and your daughter’s reaction to being chosen! They do get embarrassed over the funniest of things that don’t even make us bat an eyelash!

  • Reply
    February 6, 2012 at 8:33 am

    This pasta doesn’t look like much… I think it looks absolutely yummy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Such a cute story about this winning the Recipes from Home! It sure looks like a winner…pesto adds such fabulous flavor~

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I love any broccoli dish, and this looks like a keeper!

  • Reply
    Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes
    February 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I’ll bet she’s happy now! It looks delicious!!! I’m looking forward to trying this myself! Have a wonderful day!

    Go P-A-T-R-I-O-T-S!!!

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    February 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    No wonder it won. This looks delicious and I’m sure the dining staff loved how easy it was to prepare. Sometimes less is more and that is probably why this simple yet yummy recipe was chosen.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    don’t know how i didn’t know you before…but glad you stopped by my place and i could track back to ya. what a great idea “recipes from home” is…i would have loved that in college. i worked in the mess-hall kitchen in college and believe me…fresh ingredients like this had never seen the light of day in there ๐Ÿ™‚ i love your recipe…fresh and comforting…i am definitely going to make this. excited to rummage through the rest of your recipes (btw..your photos are fantastic!)

  • Reply
    Norma Chang
    February 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    This is going to be a favorite. Simple and healthy.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Congrats on the win! I can only imagine your daughter’s face. Definitely send in a recipe to your other daughter’s school as well. I’m thinking you might have even more house guests in the future, as their friends discover what an awesome cook you are. This sounds absolutely divine!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Beautiful pictures, Sue! And this recipe sounds delightful too! I’m still laughing at your embarrassed daughter, I can just imagine how she felt LOL

  • Reply
    Louise @ cosmetic bee
    February 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    This looks super tasty! I am not surprised it won the contest. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I will try it out. I’m always looking for ways to get the kids to eat more greens.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    What a fabulous recipe. It is no wonder that it won. It will be something you laugh about with your daughter when she sends her own off to school. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings…Mary

  • Reply
    February 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    This looks wonderful Sue and something that would be another family favorite in my house. It reminds me of the broccoli lemon pasta that I make on a weekly basis for my kids and I could honestly make with my eyes closed. I’m excited to give this pasta a try and switch it up a bit for my kids. I just made a delicious meyer lemon pesto the other day that would be prefect on this.

    As always, you have such wonderful recipes that are easy to recreate at home, and I love that. Your photographs are absolutely stunning and I love seeing what you create each time.

    When you submit this recipe again to your daughter’s college, you have to include your photos in the submission, you will win hands down, even before they try the recipe.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Ha- that’s awesome! I hope I have the chance to embarrass my kids like that one day… ๐Ÿ˜‰ I don’t think we had anything like that back in the day (when I was in college). I think it’s pretty cool. And I think this dish definitely deserves to be a winner as it sounds mouthwatering!

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