Recipes

pasta with longer-cooked broccoli

I’ve been working up the courage to tell you about this dish for a few years. Why courage, you might ask? What’s courageous about the timeless combination of broccoli and pasta, Deb? It’s the cooking time. This broccoli is not al dente. It does not “retain a crunch,” “still have some bite to it,” or keep any of the verdant green hue it entered the pan with. And, even more audacious, it doesn’t wish to. This broccoli applies a philosophy of vegetable cooking times fairly polarized from our current moment, when the minutes we walk vegetables by the fire have plunged so far that some of us even advocate for eating cauliflower, asparagus, and even broccoli raw. [Or, in a twist on the words of a steak cooking chart I once saw on the wall of a restaurant in Texas: A good farmer could still save the vegetable.]


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But there is a time and place for all vegetable cookery, and this is the one that really made me fall in love with what happens when broccoli is cooked until it begins to melt. What is key is that this is not the bland, soggy, boiled to death broccoli nightmare of someone’s childhood cafeteria or dinner at grandma’s house. [Justice for grandmothers, always, however, for feeding us ingrates anyway.] This is more silky, closer to braised, and has an elusive vegetable sweetness, a nod of vegetable confit, that only comes with the luxury of the unrushed.

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Which is funny because this is all in the service of a pasta-and-broccoli actually perfect for weeknights — a one-pan meal. It takes a page from an Apulian dish usually made with orecchiette and broccoli rabe (orecchiette con cime di rapa). The simplest way to make it is just to boil the vegetable and pasta together, and dress it at the end with olive oil, garlic, cheese, and seasonings as we do in this pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe. But this diverges in two ways. First, less divisive regular (Calabrese) broccoli is swapped in for broccoli rabe. The broccoli is first sauteed in a hearty glug of olive oil and a lot of aromatics — garlic, lemon zest, pepper, and anchovies, which are wonderful here even if you think you don’t like them. This step ensures that the final vegetable tastes not just boiled, but complex and fragrant when we next add both the dried pasta and water and finish cooking them together. I can’t wait for you to find out how good it is.

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More

Previously

6 months ago: Corn Butter Farro
1 year ago: Crispy Cabbage and Cauliflower Salad
2 year ago: Rigatoni Alla Vodka
3 years ago: Perfect Vegetable Lasagna
4 year ago: Bodega-Style Egg and Cheese Sandwich and Chocolate Puddle Cakes
5 years ago: Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Korean-Braised Short Ribs
6 years ago: Small-Batch Tiramisu
7 years ago: Miso Black Sesame Caramel Corn and Hot and Sour Soup
8 years ago: Oven-Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Garlic and Pecan Sticky Buns
9 years ago: Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Hearts and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
10 years ago: Italian Stuffed Cabbage
11 years ago: Lasagna Bolognese
12 years ago: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
13 years ago: Best Cocoa Brownies and Chana Masala
14 years ago: Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes and Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw
15 years ago: Seven-Yolk Pasta Dough and Best Chocolate Pudding
16 years ago: For Beaming, Bewitching Breads

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Pasta with Longer-Cooked Broccoli

  • Servings: 2 to 3
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to finish
  • 5 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
  • 2 anchovies, roughly chopped (optional, see note)
  • Zest and juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Glug of white wine (optional)
  • 3 cups room temperature water
  • 8 ounces dried pasta such as fusilli corti or gemelli
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano to finish (see note)

Separate the broccoli “treetops” from the stems. Cut or break the tops into 3/4-inch florets. Peel the knobby stems and slice them 1/4-inch thick.

In a large deep skillet or saucepan, combine olive oil and garlic then turn heat to medium-high. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and just beginning to turn golden. Add the anchovies, if using, lemon zest and pepper flakes and cook for 2 more minutes, using a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies into tinier bits. Add a glug of wine, if using, and cook until it disappears. Add the broccoli and stems, kosher salt, and many grinds of black pepper, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes; the broccoli will get darker in color. Add the dried pasta and water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan and for 12 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Lift the lid and stir a couple times while the pasta cooks, just to ensure it’s cooking evenly. Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest, lid on, for 5 minutes.

Remove lid, and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Finish with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, additional black pepper, and grated parmesan. Spoon onto plates and serve with more parmesan.

Notes:

  • Of course you don’t have to use anchovies if you don’t want to. For a similar-but-not-exactly-the-same briny addition, replace the anchovies with 1 to 2 tablespoons of drained capers. If you don’t like capers either, it’s fine. Just add neither.
  • If you’d like to keep this dairy-free, you can swap the parmesan with breadcrumbs toasted lightly in olive oil and seasoned.
  • Some pastas — and people (sorry!) — are thirstier than others and you might find you need an additional splash or two of pasta water to keep the dish sauced.
  • I’m using a pasta shape here called fusilli corti, which I was delighted got a dedicated shoutout in Eater last fall.

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    101 comments on pasta with longer-cooked broccoli

    1. Claire

      I can’t wait to try this! My broccoli-and-pasta loving toddler will inhale, I’m sure. ALSO: Deb!!! Where has the chocolate whiskey beer cupcake recipe gone? It’s linked here but no dice. It’s my husband’s favourite and I’ve found it on other websites, but I’m always curious why it’s no longer here on SK.

    2. Merely Me

      Trader Joe’s fusilli corti bucati goes on my grocery list as PTGB: Pasta That Goes Boing. The “goes boing” part is the fun part.

        1. Vickie

          This turned out perfectly! I only had whole wheat angel hair pasta and wasn’t sure it would work, but it did. I also left out the anchovies, didn’t have wine, and used vegan parm. This recipe is a keeper!

      1. Eve Stewart

        This takes me back to my Beverly Cleary days when Ramona just could not resist pulling her classmates’ hair that went “boing.” Fusilli and rotini are faves over here. I remember a friend telling me once that she had “no room in my life for tagliatelle.” 😂 Isn’t it amazing how the shape of pasta can elicit such distinct memories and emotions. ♥️

    3. Anita Wing

      We in the Deep South of the UShave been cooking our vegetables to softness for many generations, and most of us prefer them that way. Although we may eat them raw on occasion, soft-cooked is a taste of home. Thank you for this recipe!

    4. Sarah D

      This looks wonderful! Would just want to add in some protein- maybe white beans or chickpeas? At what point do you think those could be added in?

    5. Debbie Avino

      The recipe says nothing about draining the pasta after cooking.
      Mine only has a few more minutes to cook, but there’s still a lot of water in the pan.
      Drain or don’t drain?

        1. Susan Kilpatrick

          Does 3 cups of water get absorbed by the pasta? I want to make this but am struggling with all that water being absorbed and/or drained off.

          1. Lisa

            I made a pasta last night that used 5C liquid for 12 oz pasta. It was absorbed, but still saucy at the end, so I’m sure this will consume it all.

        2. Amanda

          Was very excited to make this and had to make a few adjustments. There was a lot of water left and had to drain most of it. Also, is there a trick on how to keep the broccoli from getting soggy? Thank you!

    6. Sara

      Interesting. I recently made Ali Slagle’s version of this (title on NYT Cooking is “skillet broccoli spaghetti,” adapted from her cookbook) and decided that it was a little too much mush and not enough broccoli flavor for how much broccoli went into it, but of course I’ll give this technique another shot now that we have your version. Thanks, Deb!!

    7. Cate

      I have never run to immediately make a recipe so quickly. I substituted anchovies for Kalamata olives and added chickpeas for a bit of extra protein. This is a seriously good recipe, and even better that there is minimal cleanup.

    8. Jordan

      The flavors were delicious, but I ended up with at least a half a cup of extra water in the pan at the end, even after letting it sit for a few minutes. Had to pour it off and reduce it down to avoid losing all the tasty anchovy and garlic flavor. I used penne with a suggested cooking time of 9 minutes rather than 12- maybe I should have scaled back the amount of water given the shorter cooking time?

    9. ChrissyS

      When we were growing up, my mom used to make what we simply called “broccoli and macaroni.” (Which was actually linguini.) And the best part was the well-cooked broccoli which she simmered in water with a couple garlic cloves and a little olive oil. And she ALWAYS reserved some of the pasta cooking water in case we got carried away with the grated cheese.

    10. RS

      This looks delicious. Think there is a link missing in this: “as we do in this pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe” — which by the way is a recipe of yours (pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe) that is a huge hit in our home, and disappears very quickly, with adults and 8-year-old alike! We like broccoli too and this looks like another one to add to the rotation. Thank you.

    11. Jenova

      I wanted to love this because I LOVE broccoli that’s been cooked a little longer, but there’s just too much water left in the pan. All that delicious sauce just washed right off the pasta!

    12. Darlene

      This has been our family favorite pasta recipe for nearly 25 years with a couple of minor tweaks. I start a pot of water to boil and when it’s almost there, I blanch the broccoli for 2-3 minutes, remove with a sieve and drain. Meanwhile, I make the sauce as you do but with a whole tin of anchovies. After they’ve dissolved, I add the blanched broccoli to the sauce, cook for 5 minutes, cover and remove from heat. I cook the pasta in the blanched broccoli water, drain (retaining a cup of pasta water) and return to the pot, adding a couple TBS butter, the broccoli mixture and the cheese and toss it all together, adding pasta water as needed. I’ve never tried it with lemon, but no doubt that would add a bright note to the already yummy yumminess!

    13. PBK

      If this recipe inspires anyone to long-cook other vegetables, look for a fasolakia recipe…Greek style green beans, slow simmered in olive oil. Makes even canned beans taste wonderful.

    14. Deb, I just have to tell you how much I appreciate that you *actually* write in these days of formulaic food blogs. Your work is a joy to read and never fails to make me want to try whatever it is you’re showing me. Thank you for keeping up the good work and putting your soul into what you do…this looks wonderful :)

      1. Kim

        Oh yes, I agree! As a writer, cook, digital marketer, and WordPress website designer, I am appalled at this odd formula for food blogs that I see everywhere these days. I mentioned it just recently to my assistant and asked (rhetorically), “where did this awful SEO food blog template come from?” Thank goodness for Deb for keeping it real and not caving into to that SEO nonsense.

        1. NJ

          I third this whole-heartedly!! I’ve been following (and cooking) SmittenKitchen recipes since… 2007? Still the GOAT. Thank you, Deb!! And to keep this comment relevant: Nice soft broccs, done right, strikes me as the veggie version of when you get *just* the right delicate-but-not-yet-totally-soggy texture on a milk-dunked Oreo. Yes?

      2. Yael

        Yes! This is one of the only recipe blogs where I don’t immediately search for a “jump to recipe” button, because I just enjoy the writing. Same for the SK cookbooks, which I think are excellently written.

        (Also appreciate that this blog kept a simple user-friendly format, without those zillion pop-ups with recipe videos, newsletter sign-up suggestions, random floating hearts or what have you that seem to be part of the template of many other recipe blogs. Thank you for that.)

    15. Annie

      Oooh yes, perfect timing for Lenten meatless dinners with toddlers! I’ve got all these ingredients in my fridge and pantry ready to go!!

        1. Darlene

          I get your point, but I see less of an intent of competition and more of a sense of camaraderie about how we each discover similar recipes over time or inherit them from our families. My very similar recipe is dear to me because it’s one of the first meals I ever made as an adult and I was even more delighted when I eventually had children and they loved it as much as I did (especially with my tweak of a whole tin of anchovies!). How did I discover it? A book called “The Joy of Pasta” (c) 1983 (Compliments of Bolla Imported Wines – lol). NO idea where I got the book from, but it just shows that a good recipe never dies and will find ways of reinventing itself by and to new generations.

    16. Janet M

      “Less divisive regular broccoli”? I have always thought of “regular broccoli” as very divisive — one either loves it or hates it (I’m in the latter camp). Broccoli rabe, on the other hand, is delicious (IMHO). :-)

    17. Jacquelyn

      Great recipe. Simplicity at its finest. I made it without anchovies just because I had none in house and still delicious! Also made with more broccoli, less pasta ratio. The broccoli by itself as a side dish would be wonderful prepped this way.

    18. Bridget

      YES! I’ve been making a variation of this for my family for the past year and like you I’ve been slightly mortified about telling people about it… but it’s sooooo good! Yum!

    19. EB Clark

      Agree with the others who made this, flavors are delicious but too much water. I used organic gemelli from evil C*$t€* which recommends a 9 min cook time. I ended up cooking the whole 12 min and resting the pasta a little but still had extra liquid. Next time I’ll start with 2c and add water as necessary.

      1. Mary

        I’m just curious–if you think Costco is evil, why do you shop there? To save money, right? So it seems like you are willing to compromise your own morals while judging them for some reason. Costco actually has a reputation for paying their employees a better wage and treating them better than most other corporations.

        1. flitcraft

          And not to go off topic completely, but Costco has been a great community partner with many worthy organizations working towards a better world.

    20. Mary

      Based on the comments, I reduced the amount of water to 2 1/2 cups. My pasta (Trader Joe’s organic Fusilli Corti Bucati) said to boil 7-8 minutes for al dente. With that slight adjustment, pasta was perfect, with a just small amount of scrumptious liquid in the pan — easily scooped up with a large spoon. Delicious one-pan meal.

    21. Michelle

      I saw this recipe yesterday and was so happy I had all the ingredients to make it tonight. I cooked the pasta about two thirds through and then put it in the already cooking broccoli. I added some of the pasta water and finished it that way. It came out perfectly. I paired it with a Gruner Veltliner. Fantastic!

    22. Lynn Spann Bowditch

      People who are grandmothers NOW don’t boil broccoli to death. Sometimes we roast it, sometimes we saute it, sometimes we steam it Asian-style, and sometimes we cook it richly and deeply, Italian-style, as here. People who are grandmothers NOW may remember parents and grandparents who assassinated broccoli, but we don’t do it ourselves.

      1. Lisa

        Haha – don’t jump in front of an arrow if it’s not aimed at you.

        You acknowledge your grandmother doing this, therefore, yes, matches Deb’s note. My *mother* doesn’t roast vegetables and still finds it weird and exotic when I do. If generalizing offends you, maybe don’t do it?

    23. Suzanne Ross

      This sounds delicious! If I want it for lunch today and don’t have any anchovies on hand, might I use a bit of Asian fish sauce instead?

    24. Susanna

      I’m curious. I use the Trader Joe’s fusilli corti all the time—the box time says to cook 7 to 8 minutes, but I find that even that is too long for my liking. Yet in this recipe the pasta cooks for 12 minutes. Does it take that much longer because it’s cooked with the broccoli and with less water? Is there a way to have my broccoli nice and soft, which I like, and keep the pasta al dente?

    25. roseann needleman

      This is very authentic. My Sicilian grandparents cooked broccoli this way. Not with pasta in the same pot but definitely cooked the broccoli really long so that it falls apart with al dente pasta ( fusilli Corte)and parm cheese. I’ll try the same pot recipe. Thank you! I love your recipes and have your books! Brava!

    26. Lynn

      Welcome back Deb, you have been missed on your blog. I suspect many besides me clicked a lot of times to see if anything new was posted! And we’d love to hear how the book tour has been going!

    27. Susan

      How funny This has been our go to lazy family supper for the last 15+ years! I even think the first time I made it I was aiming for a kid friendly version of the Italian classic (or maybe couldn’t find rabe). The only difference in my version is I never added lemon zest. But will give it a try with it. Also, having made it only once or twice without anchovies (we’d run out) I can say it’s just not the same without them!

    28. Jane

      Just made this with our homegrown broccoli, and especially love that it calls for cooking the stems, my favorite part! I also added the silky broccoli leaves to use more of the plant, as I recently learned these are edible and delicious. Thanks for another satisfying recipe!

    29. This recipe is delicious! Made it tonight and wanted to eat all of it!
      Did not have anchovies or capers, so made without either. Used whole wheat rotini.
      So very good and easy.
      Not a surprise. Every recipe I’ve made from SK has been outstanding!
      (Still enjoying the memory of the Salted Caramel Brownies that have become a Valentine’s tradition.)

    30. Julie

      I made double and there was probably 1.5 cups pasta water left. Pasta was fully cooked and it was still delicious but could’ve probably used less water.

    31. Megan

      This is similar to the way my Croatian mother in law cooks broccoli! She boils it for ages and then slightly mashes it with really good olive oil, salt and pepper. She usually serves it room temperature. It sounds like it would taste terrible, but it’s amazing!!

    32. Emily

      I made this, reducing the water two two cups based on the command the fact I had closer to 7 ounces of pasta. It was… Fine? I think I’d rather separately eat pasta with butter and long-cooked broccoli. This broccoli was sort of neither here nor there?

    33. I can’t wait to try it this weekend. I started using Grana Padano instead of Parmesan. It is more pronounced in taste. So if you are looking for an alternative to Parmesan, I highly recommend this cheese!

    34. Elle

      Made this last night and it was a huge hit! I used slightly less than 3 full cups of water and it turned out perfect. I was a little worried it would be bland, but with the final addition of pepper, lemon juice, and parm it was delightful.

    35. Kay

      I was hesitant to add the full 3 cups of water after reading several comments of having excess water leftover but I’m glad I trusted you, Deb. The water was completely absorbed leaving soft broccoli and pasta for my two toddlers to devour. Easy, simple and delicious dinner!

    36. Jo

      Hi – When you get to the point where you add the pasta/water and bring to simmer and put lid on, how high should the light be during the 12 minute cook?
      Thanks.

    37. Hi!!! It’s Look so yummy, I’ll also try this amazing dish. Btw I’m new here, figured I’d introduce myself here. Nice to meet you all! I want to share something with you guys. CHUCK E. CHEESE is an American family entertainment center and pizza restaurant chain. CHUCK E. CHEESE offers a family-friendly environment and offers a wide range of entertainment options, including rides, arcade-style and skill-based games, live entertainment acts, and the chance for visitors to win tickets and redeem them for gifts like toys, plush dolls, and branded merchandise. For more visit: Chuck E Cheese Coupons 100 Tokens for $20.

    38. Hi!!!Looks so yummy. I’ll try this. I love veg food. This is good for me and all veg lovers. Btw I’m new here, figured I’d introduce myself here. Nice to meet you all! I want to share something with you guys. CHUCK E. CHEESE is an American family entertainment center and pizza restaurant chain. CHUCK E. CHEESE offers a family-friendly environment and offers a wide range of entertainment options, including rides, arcade-style and skill-based games, live entertainment acts, and the chance for visitors to win tickets and redeem them for gifts like toys, plush dolls, and branded merchandise. For more visit: Chuck E Cheese Coupons 100 Tokens for $20.

    39. Marian

      I am enjoying this meatless meal on a Friday. I used white vermouth instead of the wine because we keep it in the fridge. I also used capers plus a splash of worscestershire sauce such instead of the anchovies. I learned that worscestershire sauce can be subbed for anchovies from your caesar salad dressing recipe and find that sub quite handy because I often do not have anchovies on hand.
      The lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper flakes, capers, garlic, cheese and well cooked broccoli are indeed very nice with the pasta. Thanks for the recipe!

    40. This pasta with longer-cooked broccoli is a simple and healthy meal that can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner. You can also add other ingredients to this recipe, such as cherry tomatoes, olives, or anchovies, to give it a little more flavor and texture.

    41. Emma O

      I spent a year studying in Italy back in the mists of time and my first real Italian friend (as in a real live Italian person, not another foreign student!) cooked this for me the first time she invited me to her house. I’ve been fond of it ever since. She made her without the anchovies and with a liberal amount of chilli flakes and that’s how I’ve made it ever since. Orecchiette to be truly authentic… but they’re hard to find where I live. I love the idea of the anchovies and lemon in yours – will definitely try it this way too.

    42. Elaine

      I made this and it was absolutely delicious. Only change I made was to use the capers instead of anchovies. Bonus was using only one pan! I will be making this many times.

    43. Allison

      Made it tonight. Delicious! Didn’t have quite enough fresh broccoli so also used some frozen. Added the frozen first and let it cook for a few minutes before adding the fresh stuff. Agree with other posters: don’t panic and drain the water… it will get absorbed as it cools a bit.

    44. Nancy

      This looks good, but the description of any food as “silky” feels to me the same as saying it’s “slimy”. I wish a different descriptor would become the new catchphrase.

    45. Tracey

      I made this last night and it was a huge hit! I sautéed some shrimp with olive oil and garlic and tossed them in for extra protein at the end. Next time I would use even more broccoli because it’s delicious :). It really was so easy and yummy— thanks, Deb! Probably great home cooks already understand some of these tricks, but for others of us (ahem) these simple recipes are the difference between trying something new and ordering take out again!

    46. Cristina

      Made this tonight and it was very good. Good flavor! I took the note about the breadcrumbs and topped each dish with the breadcrumbs AND cheese—oh yeah! I think I would add a bit more broccoli next time … we like broccoli. I imagine you could be creative and add other things —shrimp would be easy, and sausage is always popular in my house. But just as written—outstanding!

    47. Donna H

      I made it exactly as written and it turned out great. I feel like this dish has the potential to become my next “quick pasta and chickpeas” (from this site several years ago) which I make at least every 2 weeks!

    48. Ryan

      Like others, not all of the water absorbed, so I had to drain a bit. I think next time I’ll use a half-cup less.

      It was still great, though! And we discovered that leftovers, cold, make a great pasta salad (added some olive oil, some lemon juice, and some caper juice). It might be a new secret go-to pasta salad more than a hot dish (it’s hard to want to make any other quick and easy pasta dish when Deb’s spaghetti al limon is so easy).

    49. Una

      A rare disaster. I mistakenly used whole-wheat pasta, locally made blah blah blah, which completely fell apart in the process leaving a mushy mess. It was far too lemony too. But I’m not giving up, having read so many positive reviews! Next time will try some good basic Italian pasta, follow the recipe to a T, and perhaps sub caulifower for broccoli?

    50. Rachel

      My ten-year-old gave this recipe “five gold stars” and asked me to save him some of the leftovers to have tomorrow. I only had about 9 ounces 3 of broccoli in the pathetic crown they had at the store, and I used a squeeze of anchovy paste (which is my new favorite ingredient.) I did use the recommended pasta but it cooked much faster than the recipe stated, though maybe because of the lack of broccoli. All in all it was a tasty, easy dinner and I’ll make it again.

    51. Kathryn

      I made your pasta with broccoli which was delicious. I used a different pasta because I couldn’t find the one you suggested. Where did you purchase the fusilli corti shaped pasta?

    52. Reva

      I made this with a vacuum-sealed package of potato gnocchi instead of pasta. I reduced the water to a bit over 1.5 cups and slightly reduced the cooking time. Came out delicious and creamy without being mushy.

    53. Anna

      This was WONDERFUL. The sauce becomes so silky! So much flavor from just a few ingredients.

      I used 1/3 less water than called for and my pasta was al dente in 8 minutes, which was perfect. Many thanks to everyone who suggested using less water!