Nonna’s Pasta with Broccoli is so delicious and creamy that you will not believe you are eating broccoli! We mix the broccoli with olive oil, garlic, and cheese to create a sauce that is soft and velvety! The sauce can be served over spaghetti, rigatoni or one of my favorites, Homemade Gnocchetti!
Nonna’s Italian broccoli sauce
There are a lot of versions of pasta with broccoli out there. Most of them leave the broccoli florets whole. This recipe turns the broccoli into a sauce that coats the pasta like a broccoli cream! The way my mom (Nonna) achieves this is by cooking the broccoli until it is soft so that it is easy to breakdown with the back of a fork or a wooden spoon. This is what makes this dish stand apart from all other versions that you might try. The sauce will melt in your mouth.
One of the other secrets to this pasta with Broccoli is the olive oil. You will need to use an insane amount of olive oil to create the right texture in this sauce, but I guarantee that it will be so worth it!
For years I tried to make this with a lot less olive oil, and I was never able to get the same creamy result that my mother did. I finally got tired of hearing that my “pasta with broccoli was good, but it is not like Nonna’s”. So, I broke down and decided that if I was going to make this dish and do it justice, I just had to increase the olive oil I was using and accept the extra calories that go along with it.
This is a pasta dish that you should whole heartedly enjoy and not worry about if it fits into a diet. Make it knowing that you are going to be treating yourself and your family to a delicious plate of pasta!
What to serve with Pasta and Broccoli
In Italy, pasta is usually a first course, followed by a meat, chicken or fish course. I find that this goes well as a side dish for any of these proteins. But it can also be served as a hearty main course. Add a loaf of bread or a salad and you have a delicious meatless meal.
What you need:
Here are the simple ingredients that you will need:
Broccoli: Use fresh broccoli.
Olive Oil: Olive oil helps create the creamy texture when mixed with the broccoli.
Red Pepper Flakes: This is optional, but it gives the dish a little zing and I love that. You can use as much or as little as you like, or you can omit it all together and it will still be delicious.
Garlic: Chopped fine.
Pecorino Romano: Grated cheese is the crowning glory of this dish. The saltiness of this cheese is the perfect finish to this sauce.
Pasta: This dish works just as well with a short or long pasta, so whatever you prefer or have on hand is fine.
How we make Italian Pasta with Broccoli
- Cook the broccoli in a pot of water until it is soft, about 12-15 minutes.
- Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in the olive oil.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked broccoli to the skillet. Add your pasta to the broccoli water and cook as directed.
- Use a wooden spoon or the back of a fork to mash the broccoli and stir the sauce.
- Add the grated pecorino romano cheese to the broccoli and stir until it is evenly integrated.
- Drain the pasta and toss it in the broccoli until it is coated.
- Serve with additional pecorino romano cheese.
Tips for making this the best pasta dish
- Cook the broccoli in salted water so that it is seasoned before you start making the sauce.
- Make sure the broccoli is cooked until it is soft. This way it will be easy to mash with a fork or spoon and will become creamy when combined with the olive oil.
- When transferring the broccoli to the sauté pan, there is no need to drain it completely. You will need a little water to loosen the sauce.
- Cook the pasta in the same water that you cooked the broccoli in. It helps to flavor the pasta and it is one less pan that needs to be washed. You may need to add a little more water to the pan before you add the pasta.
- Don’t be afraid to add more olive oil if the broccoli seems to have absorbed it.
Any left overs can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for several days.
True Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is often used for grating on pasta or other dishes. It was originally produced in the Lazio region of Italy, which is where Rome is located. Because the cheese is made of sheep’s milk many people find it easier to digest then cheese made of cow’s milk.
Additional Italian pasta dishes that you will love:
Nonna’s Pasta with Broccoli
- 6 cups Broccoli florets, about 3 heads washed and cut into even pieces
- 1 tbsp. Salt
- ½ Onion medium
- 1 clove Garlic
- 5 oz. olive oil
- ⅛ tbsp. Red Pepper flakes optional
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- ¼ tsp. Black Pepper ground
- 6 tbsp. Pecorino Romano Cheese grated, and more for serving at the table
- 1 lb. Pasta Fettuccini, Linguini, or your favorite shape
- Fill a past pot or stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Cut the broccoli into florets and wash.
- When the water is boiling, add the broccoli and 1 tbsp of salt and stir. Cook the broccoli until the florets are soft, about 10 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a skillet. When it is hot add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes if you are using them.
- Cook just until the onion is soft, but do not allow the garlic to burn.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the broccoli to the skillet.
- Using the back of a wooden spoon or a fork, mash the broccoli and mix it with the onion.
- Add the additional salt, ground pepper and the cheese and mix well.
- Cook the pasta in the broccoli water according to the product directions. The shape you select will determine how long the pasta will need to cook.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of water. Pour the pasta into the skillet and toss with the broccoli. Add some pasta water if the sauce seems to thick.
- Serve the pasta with additional cheese for sprinkling on top.