Cavatelli and broccoli is a minimalist pasta dish made with just a handful of flavorful ingredients. Tender broccoli florets are combined with pillowy cavatelli and a delicious garlic sauce. This veggie-filled Italian broccoli pasta dish comes together in just 20 minutes.
Rich pasta dishes are a mainstay in my home. I love creamy sauces, red sauces and everything in between. But there are times when a simple bowl of Cavatelli and Broccoli pasta are all that I need to feel satisfied.
Tender pasta, garlic, a bit of oil and loads of broccoli come together in a magical way. A touch of red pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan or a dollop of ricotta cheese add heat and creaminess that make this Italian broccoli pasta irresistible.
- Cavatelli - I like the frozen packages because they contain ricotta cheese in the dough and cook quickly. It is also available as dried pasta but the texture is more like regualr pasta as it usually doesn't contain the cheese. If you can't find cavatelli, orecchiette is a good substitute. Really any pasta is good in this dish.
- Frozen Broccoli – I prefer broccoli florets to broccoli pieces, but both will work.
- Olive Oil – Or use your favorite light, neutral oil.
- Garlic – Freshly minced garlic adds a warm, earthy flavor to the dish.
- Red Pepper – Add crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. Adjust the amount according to individual preferences.
- Salt and Pepper – Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Cheese – Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a few dollops of ricotta cheese takes this pasta dish to teh next level.
See recipe card below for exact quantities and instructions.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.
Add the broccoli the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain well and cut any pieces of broccoli that are not bite size. Reserve ½ cup pasta water.
Add olive oil to medium heat in the pan. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it starts to get golden. Add pasta and broccoli. Stir well and mix in the pasta water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and is bubbling.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with Parmesan cheese or dollops of ricotta cheese if desired.
Hint: Be sure to reserve at least ½ cup of pasta cooking water. It will help to loosen the pasta and create a light garlicky sauce.
- Swap The Pasta - If you can find cavatelli, you can use 12 ounces of your favorite dry pasta. Orecchiette is a good substitute.
- Brighten It Up - Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and top with a bit of lemon zest for a bright citrusy flavor.
- More Vegetables – Try using broccoli rabe or cauliflower in place of the broccoli florets.
- Add Bold Flavor - Add 2 anchovies filets to the pan when sauteing the garlic. Mash them with a fork to incorporate into the sauce.
- Make It Meaty – Add some bacon lardons to the sauce for a rich flavor. You can also add cooked, crumbled hot Italian sausage or sweet Italian sausage.
Storage / Reheating Leftovers
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. Reheat in a skillet, adding a bit of water as needed to loosen the sauce. You can also reheat in the microwave.
We don't recommend freezing this as the broccoli will become mushy and watery.
- Use salted water when boiling the pasta and broccoli. This is your one opportunity to impart flavor to the pasta and broccoli.
- Add the broccoli to the pasta during the last 4 minutes.
- Cook the pasta to al dente as it will continue to cook as you prepare the sauce.
- Mince the garlic with a microplane or by pressing with the blade of a knife.
- Adjust the amount of red pepper you add according to your tastes.
Before serving, top the Cavatelli and Broccoli with Parmesan or dollops of ricotta cheese. It adds flavor, substance and creaminess to the pasta. Although delicious on its own, you can make this Italian Broccoli Pasta a full meal by adding bread and a tasty side. Here are some of my favorites:
- Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Walnuts
- Simple Balsamic Glazed Caprese Salad
- Heirloom Tomato and Chickpea Salad
- Pesto Tomato Salad via Swirls of Flavor
Cavatelli is such a fun pasta. The shape resembles a miniature hot dog bun. It's typically made from ricotta, flour and water and has a dumpling-like texture.
Yes! To use fresh broccoli, saute it with a bit of oil and the garlic in a skillet until bright green. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine then add ½ cup of chicken stock. Cover and simmer while the pasta cooks until the broccoli is tender. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the broccoli and proceed with the recipe as written. You could also use blanched broccoli and here are instructions to prep and freeze it.
More Easy Italian Pasta Recipe
- Cheese Tortellini with Sausage and Mushrooms
- Fried Leftover Spaghetti
- Angel Hair Pasta with Blush Sauce
- Chicken with Pasta and Tomatoes from Swirls of Flavor
If you like this Italian Cavatelli and Broccoli Pasta, please leave a 5-star rating.
Cavatelli Pasta and Broccoli
- 12 ounces cavatelli (or other pasta)
- 12 ounces frozen broccoli
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper
- salt and pepper, to taste
- optional grated Parmasan or ricotta cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Add the broccoli the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain well and cut any pieces of broccoli that are not bite size. Reserve ½ cup pasta water.
- Add olive oil to medium heat in the pan. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it starts to get golden. Add pasta and broccoli. Stir well and mix in the pasta water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens and is bubbling.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with Parmesan cheese or dollops of ricotta cheese if desired.
Thanks for stopping by! Subscribe to Jersey Girl Cooks if you would like more recipes and cooking tips sent to your email. You can also order my Super Easy Cookbook for Beginners and follow me on social media - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.