Lemon Broccoli Pasta
This quick yet hearty Lemon Broccoli Pasta is a true one-pot meal perfect for busy days. Tender broccoli, fresh garlic and lemon, and salty Parmesan combine to make this simple pasta shine.
Quick and easy, flavorful and feel-good, this easy garlic lemon broccoli pasta is one of those quick recipes you’ll love to have in your back pocket.
It’s perfect for lunch or dinner when you need something fast but don’t want to fall back on takeout. I make it often for lunch for my daughter and I, and love having the ingredients on hand for an easy family dinner, as well.
Why You’ll Love It
- Fresh and flavorful. A few fresh, simple ingredients go a long way. Fresh garlic is sautéed in olive oil to infuse the sauce with flavor, lemon zest and lemon juice combine for a bright, zippy effect, and that sprinkling of Parmesan is the perfect finishing touch.
- An easy way to get your veggies. Personally, I’m always looking for simple ways to incorporate veggies into a meal, instead of serving them as an afterthought, and this is a perfect way to get that job done. And because the broccoli is tender and chopped into small pieces, it is accessible to even very small kids.
- One pot=fewer dishes. You’ll use one pot to cook the pasta and broccoli together, then throw together the very light sauce in the same pot. No separate skillet, no extra pans. Clean up doesn’t get much easier than that!
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this easy lemon broccoli pasta, as well as possible substitutions.
- Pasta: I used penne here; any small pasta shape will work well. Think rigatoni, fusilli, farfalle, and similar.
- Broccoli: You’ll need roughly 8 ounces of broccoli florets, which you should easily get from one small head of broccoli, or purchase pre-packaged florets to save time.
- Garlic: Fresh or jarred minced garlic is key here for the best flavor.
- Parmesan: Very necessary to finish things off and add that touch of umami.
- Lemon juice and zest.
- Olive oil.
- Spices: dried oregano, kosher salt, and red and black pepper.
- Fresh parsley: An optional but very nice garnish. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have it.
Are pre-cut broccoli florets as good for you as whole broccoli?
Yes! According to the Cleveland Clinic, pre-cut, packaged vegetables, such as broccoli florets, pack just the same nutritional punch as whole vegetables – as long as they’re fresh.
Perhaps more importantly, because pre-packaged veggies can be a huge time-saver, it’s more likely you’ll actually use them. And a veggie that goes bad in your crisper packs no health benefits at all!
That said, when relying on pre-packaged broccoli and other veggies, be sure to watch the sell-by date closely, and do your best to use them within a few days. Pre-cut foods do break down more quickly, because of the additional exposure to air.
How To Make Lemon Broccoli Pasta
A true one-pot wonder, this pasta could not be easier to make, even when you’re very short on time. First bring a large pot of water to a boil, and a generous pinch of salt. It should be salty like the sea in order to give your pasta the first subtle layer of flavor.
While the water comes to a boil, chop your broccoli into bite-sized pieces and discard any thick stems.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, and add the broccoli to the water when just 2-3 minutes of the pasta’s cooking time remains. This will make the broccoli very tender but not falling apart.
This is important: before draining the pasta, grab a liquid measuring cup and scoop out roughly 3/4 cup of the cooking water! You’ll need this to make the sauce.
Drain pasta and broccoli together. Set aside, and return the pot to medium heat.
Now you’ll use the same pot to make a very quick, easy, and flavorful sauce. First cook the garlic in olive oil until fragrant, then add the lemon and spices, and whisk in some of the pasta water to make a light sauce. This stuff is going to perfectly coat each piece of pasta for maximum flavor with no heaviness.
Return pasta and broccoli to the pot, toss well, then add Parmesan cheese and stir once again.
Serve by the heaping spoonful!
Can I make this gluten-free?
Yes! Use any gluten-free pasta you like, it will work perfectly in this dish with no additional changes. Whole wheat pasta works very well, too.
Can this be made ahead?
- Storage: This pasta is best served right away, but leftovers do keep well for 3-4 days. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
- Reheating: Warm in the microwave or over medium-low heat on the stovetop. Add a splash of water or chicken broth if the pasta seems to have dried out, and finish with a sprinkle of extra Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil for a faux fresh effect.
Serve this lemon broccoli pasta on its own for a quick, feel-good lunch, or pair it with grilled or rotisserie chicken or garlic butter shrimp for an extra shot of protein.
Looking to garnish the bowls? Extra Parmesan, cracked black pepper, and lemon zest look pretty and taste great. A few leaves of fresh Italian parsley, either flat-leaf or curly, are lovely as well.
Making this for dinner? Add a simple arugula or marinated mozzarella salad and breadsticks or garlic bread if you’re feeding a crowd.
More Easy Pastas You’ll Love
If you enjoy this recipe, save my salmon pesto pasta, spaghetti with mushrooms and garlicky breadcrumbs, creamy garlic butter spaghetti, and magic one-pot macaroni and cheese to try next. They’re all quick, easy, and sure to please!
Craving more lemon? Lemon caper pasta and lemon chicken pasta are always winners for the citrus-lovers among us.
This simple pasta is a favorite dish here, and I hope you love it, too, especially for a busy weeknight!
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Lemon Broccoli Pasta
- 8 ounces dried pasta penne, rotini, or another small shape
- 8-10 ounces broccoli florets
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan
- lemon wedges and fresh parsley optional garnish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt, and cook pasta just to al dente, according to package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, roughly chop the broccoli florets into small pieces, discarding any thick stems. Add broccoli to the boiling water 2-3 minutes before the pasta’s cooking time is up.
- When both the pasta and broccoli are finished, use a liquid measuring cup to scoop out 3/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain pasta and broccoli together. Set aside.
- Return the empty pot to medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Cook for 30-60 seconds, just until fragrant, then stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 10-12 cranks of fresh-ground black pepper. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.
- Return the pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add the Parmesan cheese. Stir well, then taste. Add a bit more pasta water to further thin out the sauce, if desired, or more lemon, salt, or pepper to taste.
- Serve right away with a few sprigs of fresh parsley, lemon wedges, and extra pepper and Parmesan.
6 Comments on “Lemon Broccoli Pasta”
Loved it! Will make again, I’m sure.
So happy to hear that, Elizabeth, thank you!
Can you use frozen broccoli ?
Yes! Surprisingly, frozen broccoli can cook more quickly than fresh, so add it very close to the end of the pasta’s cooking time and drain it as soon as it turns bright green and tender.
Love this recipe! It goes so well with salmon. I failed to reserve the water, despite the super clear instructions to do so, but added 1/4c. cream instead, which worked out wonderfully!
Great dish! Easy and quick but had great flavor.
Loved the garlic and lemon.