Let’s be honest, if you hate broccoli… I’d skip this recipe. But pasta and broccoli is a wonderfully easy and delicious way to enjoy a healthy dish of pasta.
Pasta and Broccoli is a Healthy Italian Recipe… But it’s Still Broccoli
Broccoli, although loaded with amazing nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and folate, just doesn’t have that flavor that makes your knees go weak as you dramatically exclaim, “Oh Momma Mia!” when you take that first bite.
That’s not saying broccoli doesn’t have flavor. It sure does… it’s just that the flavor is… well, broccoli. And either you love it, hate it, or are simply just okay with it.
This recipe is for anyone who doesn’t hate it and hopefully that includes you. With most broccoli dishes such as my Italian broccoli recipe, or my broccolini recipe where I explain what is broccolini and how to cook it, it’s loaded with lots of Italian flavor.
As with most true Italian recipes, it’s the simplicity of the fresh ingredients that make Italian cooking really pop. This recipe is no exception. When you mix pasta and broccoli together with the right ingredients, it becomes a wonderful healthy recipe.
The Point of Reserved Pasta Water
This type of cooking of vegetables and pasta is very common – just look at pasta primavera for an example. However, sometimes it’s easy to either cook too much pasta, or not enough veggies and the pasta can get too dry.
Therefore, adding the “reserved pasta water” is key to adding some moisture, but not diluting flavor. If you use regular water, you lose some of the flavor.
The pasta water has the pasta flavor because of the starch, so it blends nicely into the cooked pasta and vegetables without tasting too watered down.
Recipe Modifications Instead of Broccoli
To add some variations to this dish you can include additional vegetables such as asparagus, peas, red peppers, or anything else that might float your boat.
On the other hand, you can also cook up some chopped chicken breasts and add that in as well. Just make sure to cook the chicken separately and add it to the broccoli only once it is cooked through.
For this recipe, I’d recommend some fresh Italian bread along with a chopped tomato salad mixed with fresh basil and/or balsamic vinegar.
Pasta and Broccoli Recipe
A beautiful Italian pasta recipe with broccoli and peas! I use this recipe as a healthy alternative to a heavy sauce. Vegetarian too with lots of flavor!
- 2 heads broccoli cut into small florets
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced (use two for the more timid)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- grated Romano cheese
- 1 lb pasta thicker such as short or linguini is best
- 1/4 cup Pasta water reserved **Very Important
- dash pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 cup peas optional – why not!
Bring a large pot of water to a boil
Meanwhile wash and trim the broccoli and cut them into small florets .. TIP: For some of the stalks, you can shave off the outer part and then dice them in small pieces
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan (I used our 5.5 qt. Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply Stainless pan which I love!)
Add in the sliced garlic and saute for about 3 minutes until fragrant
Add in the broccoli and about 1/4 cup water (this is not the reserved water mentioned above)
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to directions
Meanwhile, cook broccoli until tender – a bright green. You do not want these mushy – you want them with some crunch
When the pasta is done, transfer pasta to the large frying pan and mix with the broccoli (if you have to drain the pasta – don’t forget to reserve 1/4 cup of the water!)
Serve on plates or pasta bowls, and top with the grated Romano cheese and pepper flakes for those who like some spice.
- The reason for keeping the pasta water reserves is in case the pasta is too dry before serving. This can happen when the dish is on the stove too long. Using regular water dilutes the flavor so you want to use the pasta water instead.
- Use a saute or frying pan large enough to accommodate all the pasta when you transfer it over into the broccoli. I use my awesome 5.5qt Cuisinart pan which I love!).
- Add extra olive oil in at the end if you prefer.
- I add in peas when I cook this recipe, but you can easily omit.
I hope you enjoy this recipe – and as always feel free to post your feedback!
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If you enjoyed this recipe you may also enjoy:
- Pasta with Peas
- Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomatoes
- Eggplant Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms & Onions
- Eggplant Parmesan
So when am I supposed to add the pasta water??
I use the pasta water to keep it from drying out at the time I serve the pasta. I only use a little as needed. It’s not always needed, but it’s good to keep just in case. It’s not a sauce or anything like that, but many times if the pasta is too dry I’ll add a little in. The reason for the “reserve” and not just straight water is because the reserve water retains the pasta/starch flavor so it’s less likely to dilute the flavor of the pasta dish itself as just regular water would.
I hope that makes sense and I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Why does the picture have broccoli and peas? Am I missing something?
Feel free to add peas. I have done it both ways! Peas add some sweetness to the flavor. Enjoy!