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Broccoli Pesto Pasta

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Calories: 623
Rigatoni pasta with broccoli pesto in a bowl with a spoon

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

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

OK, I’m Listening. So, 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

Pasta Water In the Sauce? What’s That About?

Yes! SO much yes. 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). 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!

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Calories: 623

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Cooked pasta of your choice, pasta water reserved
  • 4 cups Broccoli florets
  • 2 cups Basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup Pine nuts
  • 1 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Method

  1. In a large pot bring water ** to a rapid boil.
  2. Add the broccoli, bring the water back up to a boil for two minutes. Do not drain the water! Immediately transfer broccoli (with a slotted spoon) to a colander place under cold running water to stop further cooking.
  3. Bring the water ** back to a boil and add your favorite pasta and cook according to the package (reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining).
  4. In a large blender or food processor, blend together broccoli, basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt and Parmigiano-Reggiano until smooth. Slowly pour in 1 cup of reserved pasta water until a nice sauce is formed. If sauce is too thick, add more pasta water one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Toss hot pasta with sauce until completely coated. Top with extra Parmesan, pine nuts and chili flakes if desired. Enjoy!

** It is important to salt your water before adding the broccoli and pasta. Do this to your own taste.