Broccoli is a favorite veggie in our household, and we go through at least a couple heads of it each week.  In general, it tends to play more of a supporting role in our meals as a side dish rather than take the spotlight in a main dish.  But not this time.  Just like roasted broccoli as a side, this pasta with a creamy broccoli pesto sauce has become an all-star.  The kids rarely ask for seconds of anything (except macaroni and cheese, duh), but they always, always ask for seconds of this.

These days I make whole wheat pasta the majority of the time for a somewhat healthier meal, but this time I just used what I had on hand.  Though the original recipe calls for heavy cream, I was out so instead I added a couple spoonfuls of greek yogurt for creaminess.  I’ve made it both ways and I honestly didn’t notice a difference  this time so I’ll continue to use the yogurt from here on out.


1 lb. broccoli
1 lb. pasta
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
Up to ½ cup heavy cream (or greek yogurt)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan, for serving


  • 01

    Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Meanwhile, chop the broccoli crowns into florets.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skins of the broccoli stems, and chop the stems into ½-inch discs.  When the water is boiling, add the broccoli to the water to boil briefly just until fork-tender, about 3-4 minutes.  (Alternatively, add a steamer basket above the water and steam the broccoli until fork-tender.)  Remove to a bowl, leaving the water in the pot.  (Use a skimmer or strainer to remove the broccoli if you boiled it.)

  • 02

    Maintain the water at a boil.  Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to the package directions until al dente.  Reserve 1½ cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta well.  Set aside.

  • 03

    Return the pot to the heat.  Add the butter and olive oil to the pot over medium-high heat, heating until the butter is melted.  Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Return the cooked broccoli to the pan and cook 1-2 minutes more to heat through.  Season with pepper to taste.

  • 04

    Transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor or blender.  Pulse in short bursts, scraping down the sides as needed, until the mixture is finely chopped.  Add in the cream or greek yogurt and process until smooth.  If needed, add the reserved pasta water a little bit at a time just until the sauce is smooth and creamy.  (Don’t overdo it – you don’t want a watery sauce!)  Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.  In a large bowl (or in the pot), toss the pasta with the sauce.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

  • This is such a cool idea! Yum!

  • Jill

    I make a real similar recipe but I add a couple of carrots to the broccoli (put the carrots in the pan first as they take longer to cook). When you chop in the food processor you get flecks of orange with the green, very pretty! Plus the vitamin A from the carrots.

  • Amanda

    This is one of my favorites from Smitten too! My kids ask for it all the time – and that’s sooooo rare for us.

  • Kristine

    This looks like a healthy and easy weeknight meal. I’ll have to test it out soon to see if my kids love it as much as yours!

  • This would make for some great lunches for me to bring to school. Thanks for sharing, Annie!

  • Samantha E.

    I’ve never been a big broccoli fan– something about the texture– but this actually sounds good! I’ll have to try it.

  • marcie @ flavor the moments

    This sounds very intriguing. I may have to bribe one of my sons to eat it because it’s green, but hopefully the taste will hook him!

  • Kathy

    This looks yummy! Broccoli and pasta are two of our favorite foods. My kids would love this!

  • Pesto and pasta are just so comforting and amazing! Plus, I love the purple surface in these photos :)

  • Sounds – and looks – delicious!

  • Kendra | apartment302

    Mmmm this looks delicious! Broccoli pesto would be a super tasty twist on the original!

  • Elizabeth from Indy

    This sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  • Leighton

    I made this for family dinner last night and everyone loved it! I used whole wheat spaghetti and no one could tell because it was disguised by the delicious broccoli pesto :) I stored the extra pesto in the fridge and today I used it as a dip for carrots. It was a yummy snack!

  • Lindy

    This was awesome! I, too, have been trying to cook more with broccoli for dinner, but was running out of ideas. We all loved it!!

  • Thanks for sharing! I’m making this tonight. I also have a couple of your other recipes on the menu for this week!

  • Question for you, my family hates veggies sadly. I am always looking for new ways to sneak them in. I personally love broccoli… That being said do you think this is very broccoli tasting? That is could I pawn it off on my kids as regular pesto?

  • annieseats

    I don’t really believe in “sneaking in” veggies, so I’m not a good person to ask about that. My kids eat what I make for them, and I make them eat veggies. So, for us it may not taste that strongly but then, we love broccoli. It’s tough to answer a subjective question like that. Sorry!

  • Wow. How great that you don’t have to be sneaky about the green stuff! I wish ‘making’ them eat veggies was simply that simple around here ha ha! I think I’ll try this dish & see what happens, but I’ll be sure and have a back up something or other in the wings just in case it crashes & burns with the anti-green crew I have!

  • annieseats

    I feel that allowing any sort of back up option reinforces picky habits. If my kids give me trouble, I just put their plate in the fridge and when they are hungry again, that is what they are eating. We all have to learn to eat our veggies :)

  • M.E.

    We made this last night and it was such a huge hit. Even the 10 month old thought it was fantastic. And thanks for the Greek yogurt tip – it was so delicious that way, I don’t think I’ll ever be tempted to try it with the cream.

  • Jenn V

    I just made this for dinner- delicious!

  • Guest

    This is the first savory recipe of yours I’ve tried and I was surprised that it turned out great and looks like yours! I used half & half instead of cream/yogurt. I usually only bake since my boyfriend is the cook, so since he is out of town I was happy to have made my own dinner :) Thanks for another awesome recipe, Annie!

  • Guest

    This is the first savory recipe of yours I’ve tried and I was surprised that it turned out great and looks like yours! I used half & half instead of cream/yogurt. I usually only bake since my boyfriend is the cook, so since he is out of town I was happy to have made my own dinner :) Thanks for another awesome recipe!

  • Elizabeth from Indy

    We put the plate back in the fridge too and tell him that he can have that later when he gets hungry, or he can wait until breakfast.

  • Hi Juli – my kids do love veggies, but if it helps, I made this myself and I don’t think it tastes like broccoli.. the garlic and other flavors really mask it! It’s delicious!

  • I have loved your blog forever but never comment.. and I just had to this time, this was SOOO DELICIOUS! We are going to make batches of this pesto and freeze it.. it would even be good on chicken. Thanks for doing what you do.. your recipes are always great!

  • annieseats

    Aw, I’m so glad!

  • funwithfamilyandfitness

    Hi Annie! I just made this for dinner last night and the whole family loved it! I used non fat Greek yogurt as you also suggested so it was all the more healthful! I also agree with you about not hiding veggies. Kids need to know that veggies are a large part a healthy diet. Have a wonderful weekend! :)

  • Lauren

    What a great idea. It’s given me a wonderful idea for a healthy meal coming up!

  • Lauren

    I just made this last night and we adored it. I gave you a shout out my blog with the tweaks I made to it if you want to see it. :)

  • lauren

    i love this !!! i like to add some roasted pumpkin the flavours together taste amazingly delish :)

  • Hannah Miles

    I am going to try this recipe for my kiddos on Monday! Very nervous to try… I am just now trying this whole cooking thing!!

  • Shannon

    This was really good and my 18-month olds loved it! Thanks for sharing!

  • Claudia

    I made this last night hoping to have some pasta left for the week. I’m looking at my empty pot right now and I’m wondering where are the leftovers? This pasta is AMAZING! Thank you Annie! :)

  • JC

    Oh this looks good! I have 10 lbs of broccoli in the fridge right now – and I live alone! Been looking for ways to use it all up since I’m sick of just steaming it and eating it that way for every meal. This sounds like a great alternative! I wonder if I can get away with freezing it before I add the yogurt – it would be a great way to process all that bulky broccoli down to a smaller quantity that is easier to store.

  • Heather Shorb

    My family really enjoyed this. It’s cheap, quick, tasty and healthier than a lot of other options. Plus my kids made no complaints eating leftovers for lunch today, which is unheard of. Thanks.

  • Sarah Robin Johnson

    This is cheap and SO easy! Really great weeknight meal. Really great anytime meal, actually.

  • Ana Coleman Lanni

    Love this pasta, and its a family favorite. I’ve added some peas to thebroccoli and pureed it all together to use up a bag in the freezer and it worked really well for me. Sometimes we will top with grilled chicken.

  • Jamie Noble

    This has quickly become one of my go to recipes for an easy dinner. After I made it tonight I had to text my mom and sister to tell them that this is the most delicious meals I cook! YUMMMMM

  • Jon

    Wow…that was delicious…loved it…thank you! The texture didn’t come as as smooth and creamy as I hoped though. I used 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt and…probably about 3/4 cup? of pasta water. Do you have any tips? More yogurt?
    Thanks again!!

  • annieseats

    You can play around with it next time. I find that a bit more water and/or yogurt usually does the trick, and even more pureeing than you might think you need. Glad you enjoyed it!