Pasta and Broccoli


Photo by Alice Henneman

When I make pasta, I like to add lots of veggies so at least 1/3 to 1/2 the pasta contains vegetables. This Pasta and Broccoli recipe is a quick and delicious way to add some green goodness to your pasta.


  • Difficulty: easy
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I liked the way sautéing the broccoli turned it a bright green in this recipe. As this recipe tastes best served the same day it is made, I provided directions so you can individualize the amounts to the number of people you’re serving.


  • 2 oz. long pasta per person, such as spaghetti or linguine (2 oz. cooks up to about 1 cup of pasta, depending on the pasta shape)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or room temperature butter (approximately) per person for tossing with the pasta
  • 1 tablespoon neutral-flavored vegetable oil, such as canola, safflower, soybean or corn oil (or enough oil to form a thin film over the bottom of the skillet) for sautéing the onion and broccoli
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons coarsely chopped onion per person 
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup broccoli florets per person (include cut up tender parts of stems if desired); pat washed broccoli dry with clean paper towel(s)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, pinch or to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste, or as desired
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is done, drain and reserve about 3/4 to 1 cup of water in a separate container. Add the olive oil or butter to the drained pasta and toss. Set pasta aside in covered pasta pot off the burner.
  2. Cook onion and broccoli together in heated vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat until onion is translucent and broccoli is bright green and tender crisp. Stir frequently. Choose a pan size that allows the onion and broccoli to spread out but doesn’t leave a lot of exposed surface area in the skillet.
  3. Stir in a pinch of the crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. They add an extra flavor dimension in small amounts; too much can make the dish overly hot for some people. Go slow the first time you add this spice.
  4. Mix in the pasta and cook just a few more minutes until mixture is heated through. Add a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired, or pass the Parmesan cheese at the table.

Alice’s Tips

  • Crushed red pepper flakes may be sold under such names as “crushed pepper flakes,” “red pepper flakes” or “red chili pepper, crushed.” They are not the same as “chili powder” or “ground red (cayenne) pepper.” Crushed red pepper flakes and ground red pepper are both made from dried cayenne peppers; however, a similar amount of one can’t replace the other. In equal portions, cayenne powder will add more heat.
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has more flavor than other types of olive oil as it is prepared from the first pressing of olives. While you can cook with extra virgin olive oil, it is usually used as a finishing touch in foods, such as in salad dressings, tossed with pasta or for dipping bread. The smoke point (the temperature at which it begins to smoke) is lower than for some other oils and may begin to smoke if you cook with EVVO above medium/low to medium temperatures. This is the reason, to be on the safe side, I substituted a choice of oils with higher smoke points for sautéing the broccoli and onions.


Recipe created by Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Educator. For more recipes and tips for fast, healthy and delicious foods, visit


My husband and I enjoy eating healthy foods, but they must taste good and be quick to prepare.

My goal with Cook It Quick is: Making you hungry for healthy food!

Follow along as I share recipes and kitchen tricks that help you enjoy the same types of foods. And though I am a registered dietitian and University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension educator, all my recipes must pass inspection by my toughest critic … my husband!

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