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Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Today, a verdant, bright broccoli pesto pasta that’s as healthy as it is delicious.


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Rigatoni pasta with broccoli pesto in a bowl with a spoon

This Broccoli Pesto Pasta is All About Balance

Is pesto the world's most perfect pasta sauce? Maybe! That sharp, spicy kick of garlic, salty Parmigiano-Reggiano, fragrant fresh basil and good olive oil—basically pesto is a perfect thing. The only downside is that we feel just a teensy, tiny bit guilty when we sit down to a big bowl of pasta slicked only with basil pesto. Our mom’s voice rings in our ears as we go in for that first herby bite—”where are the veggies?!” Ugh. And of course, mom’s always right.

This broccoli pesto recipe offers up a delicious solution—broccoli florets that are whizzed right into the pesto sauce itself, adding an even more vibrant punch of emerald green to the sauce as well as a serious nutritional boost. In addition to being a great source of fiber, this dark green member of the brassica family boasts lots of vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as some iron, calcium and potassium. Blended into a classic pesto along with some of the pasta cooking water, broccoli gives this pesto sauce just a bit of creaminess and a lot more oomph.

Ingredients for broccoli pesto pasta, rigatoni, garlic parmesan, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, basil

What’s In Broccoli Pesto (Besides Broccoli)?

Basically, this is a basil pesto recipe, plus broccoli. It really is as basic as:

  • Broccoli florets

  • Fresh basil

  • Fresh garlic

  • Pine nuts

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • And one secret ingredient: reserved pasta cooking water

Ingredients for broccoli pesto pasta, rigatoni, garlic parmesan, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, basil in a blender
broccoli pesto in a vitamin blender

Why Adding Pasta Water to Sauce is so Magical.

If you’re not already using your pasta cooking water in pasta sauce, now’s the time to start. The water that you boil your pasta in should be generously salted (some chefs say it should “have the salinity of the sea”), and once you’ve cooked your pasta to a perfect al dente doneness, the water will have become rather starchy. That starchiness? That’s a great, great thing. So, instead of draining your cooked pasta through a colander and losing all of that pasta water, just lift the finished pasta out with a slotted spoon and save that water to use in your pasta sauce. The starchy, seasoned water emulsifies with whatever fat your pasta sauce may have—in the case of this broccoli pesto, with the olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese—and makes the sauce creamy (without any actual cream). See? Magic.

broccoli pesto pasta with rigatoni, garlic parmesan, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, basil in a bowl

How To Make Perfect Broccoli Pesto Pasta

This broccoli pesto pasta recipe is a thing of logistical beauty. A stock pot of boiling water does double-duty (we love that kind of efficiency, don’t you?) and simple ingredients come together to make a healthy, satisfying supper everyone can feel good about. Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. Here’s how to make this easy, healthy pasta recipe:

  1. Prep all of your broccoli pesto ingredients—rinse the basil leaves, grate your Parmigiano, peel your garlic.

  2. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil.

  3. Boil the broccoli. After two minutes, remove the florets, and add your pasta.

  4. While the pasta cooks, make the pesto! Blend the broccoli, basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt and parmigiano reggiano until it’s nice and smooth.

  5. When the pasta is done, scoop out a cup of that liquid gold (aka pasta water) and add it slowly to the pesto as you blend it a bit more.

  6. Toss the pasta with the broccoli pesto and dig in!

Rigatoni pasta with broccoli pesto in a bowl with a spoon with parmesan and one nuts

Tools You’ll Need:

3 More Perfect Pesto Recipes

Boil pasta, toss with pesto—dinner is served. These pesto recipes are on pretty constant rotation in our homes. Give them a spin!

Rigatoni pasta with broccoli pesto in a bowl with a spoon with parmesan and one nuts with a spoon

Healthy, Quick, Basic and Easy to Love.

This is the kind of recipe we’re leaning hard on right now. Pasta—everyone loves it. Cheese, garlic, olive oil—also things that everyone loves. Broccoli to make us feel good about ourselves. And best of all, it’s ready in about 15 minutes. If you make this broccoli pesto pasta, we’d love to hear about it! Snap a photo of your finished pasta and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can see. Happy eating!

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Broccoli Pesto Pasta

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 698


  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 pound pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
  • 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Red pepper flakes, for serving, optional


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

  2. Add the broccoli to the water and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to a blender or 6 cup food processor.

  3. Return the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Reserve 1¼ cup of pasta water.

  4. Meanwhile add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt and parmesan to the blender with the broccoli and blend until smooth. Slowly pour in the reserved pasta water a little at a time, until a sauce consistency forms, about 1 cup.

  5. Drain the noodles. Transfer the sauce back to the pot. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.

  6. Top with Parmesan, pine nuts and chili flakes.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories698
  • Protein17 g
  • Carbohydrates61 g
  • Total Fat47 g
  • Dietary Fiber4 g
  • Cholesterol11 mg
  • sodium207 mg
  • Total Sugars4 g

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Anurag

    I don’t eat garlic for religious reasons, what can I use as a substitute for it?

    Thanks for the recipe! The sauce turned out great :)

    Just feel free to omit it. Hope you enjoy!

  • Mikki

    how long can you keep the extra sauce for?

    It should keep in the fridge for 4-5 days.

  • Anna

    I am allergic to nuts, is there anything else I can substitute it with?

    Hi Anna, if you can't eat any nuts you could try replacing them with sunflower seeds. We haven't tried this personally yet. Hope it works for you!

  • Eva

    Made it for the office, everybody loved it. Also made a mini vegan pesto version for a lactose intolerant Co worker. Tasted awesome.

    Thanks Eva, so glad you loved it!

  • Lucy

    That was phenomenal! I added some carrots with the broccoli and added just a wee more parmesan.
    I also used half bowtie and half spiral pasta- just to use them up:) of COURSE a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
    I will most definitely make this again.
    And it's so easy I won't need to reread the recipe.
    I recommend highly

    Thanks Lucy glad you loved it!

  • Liberty


    Thanks Liberty, so happy you loved it!

  • Aura

    I used hemp seeds instead of nuts. Dinner was so good I ate the leftovers at work the next day at 10:30 am!

    Thanks Aura, so happy you loved it!

  • Hanna

    I love this recipe! Want a super quick meal? This is the one! Not a pro? No problem, it’s super easy to make! It’s so creamy and delicious! Made it for my family and they love it!

    Thanks Hanna, we are so happy that you loved it!