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Broccoli Pesto Pasta

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


  • 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


  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.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 698
  • Protein 17 g
  • Carbohydrates 61 g
  • Total Fat 47 g
  • Dietary Fiber 4 g
  • Cholesterol 11 mg
  • sodium 207 mg
  • Total Sugars 4 g

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Anna Palmieri

    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!

  • Katie

    This is SO good. Like tastes so creamy and decadent you’d think there was heavy cream but nope! The reserved pasta water is a great trick. I’ve made it multiple times and even substituted cauliflower for the broccoli which is a little more subtle. Delicious both ways!

    Thanks Katie, so happy you love this! Great to know cauliflower works as well, good tip!

  • Alice W

    This was a great week night dinner — delicious, fast, easy. I used 3/4 cup of olive oil in the sauce. This made a lot of sauce so next time I could probably make a pound and a half of pasta. Yum!

    Thanks Alice, we are so glad you loved it!

  • August Ney

    I made this today. Oh my…so good. I did add an avocado to make it creamier and a little extra garlic. We threw in some shrimp…delicious!

    Thanks August, we are so happy you loved! Thanks for trying it out!

  • Athena T.

    This recipe was delicious! I used fettuccine noodles and frozen broccoli. I'm also vegan and used shredded Vio Life Parmesean in the blended pesto, while topping with Follow Your Heart Parmesean. In the future, I'll probably use Follow Your Heart for both blending and topping, since it's the only vegan cheese that I believe tastes good. Despite this, I found this dish absolutely delicious and extremely easy to make. It'd take no time for someone to add chicken or toss some extra veggies like peas to this meal. I highly recommend for anyone looking for a healthy, saucy, and quick dinner! It's great for all dietary restrictions as it can be easily adjusted.

    Thanks Athena! So glad you liked it and were able to make the adjustments you needed. Great job!

  • Jonty

    Made this tonight and loved it! Not to be a classic recipe-blog-commenter but I will admit that I DID do a little substitution :0 and switched out the parmesan with a little lemon juice (for the sake of my vegan friends)... the sharpness of the lemon replaces the punch of the parmesan. Completely obsessed... will be doing this one a lot. So filling and satisfying... could have easily eaten a whole 'nother bowl.