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By: Chef Laura Bonicelli 

Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce is a colorful, delicious, and complete meal. The broccoli stems are the base of its flavorful sauce. Buy your ingredients at your favorite Farmers Market! 

Penne in pot

About Penne with Broccoli Pesto

 My favorite thing about Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce is the brightness of the broccoli. It is a gorgeous green color in both the broccoli florets and the sauce itself. My second favorite thing is that we’re cooking everything in one pot, which makes cleanup easy. It’s great hot or cold, and it goes together quickly, making it a perfect candidate for a weeknight meal.

Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce uses the often discarded broccoli stems to make a rich and creamy pesto sauce. You need to peel the stems to remove their fibrous outer layer. This step is essential. Otherwise, your pesto sauce won’t be smooth. The stems cook for about 10 minutes to become soft. However, florets only need to be cooked for 2 minutes. Don’t be tempted to cook the florets longer; overcooking them destroys their color, texture, and ultimately the whole dish. I add some spinach into the mix for more green color and another nutritious vegetable.

Capers add a piquant quality to the Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce recipe. The brightness of the lemon zest brings out the broccoli flavor beautifully. I chose a sturdy penne pasta as the dish’s base because of the hearty texture of the broccoli. Cooking it for only two minutes ensures that it will be al dente, which is also correct for the pasta.

Finally, I added a little red pepper to the pesto sauce. It’s not enough to add any real heat, but it adds a-lurking in the background-depth to the sauce. I hope you enjoy making Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce. Let me know how it goes!

I hope you love this recipe! 

Buon Appetito!

Step by Step Instructions

Penne with Broccoli Pesto

Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce

© Chef Laura Bonicelli
Penne with Broccoli Pesto Sauce is a colorful, delicious, and complete meal. The broccoli stems are the base of its flavorful sauce.
5 from 2 votes

Print - members only.  Please log in or JOIN HERE!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Dish - Pasta, Pizza, Sandwich, Rice, Main Dish - Vegetarian, MM-Blue
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6
Calories 626 kcal


  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli stems and florets -- stems peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic -- minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 4 tablespoons butter -- cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 pound penne pasta


  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • extra grated Asiago -- for garnish


  • Fill a small stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water. Separate the stems and the florets. Add the broccoli stems and cook until tender, 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Keep the water boiling.
  • Add the florets to the boiling water and cook until al-dente, 2 minutes. Remove, again reserving water, to a colander and rinse with cold water.
  • Add the garlic, capers, butter, pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the food processor containing the broccoli stems and spinach. Blend for 20 to 30 seconds until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the penne to the reserved boiling water, stirring, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and pour out the water. Return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the broccoli florets, broccoli puree, lemon zest, and Asiago. Cook mixture to warm for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the half and half while stirring, using just enough to make the mixture creamy. Divide among four plates, sprinkle with Asiago, and serve.

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Chef Laura Bonicelli


Calories: 626kcalCarbohydrates: 99gProtein: 21gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 247mgPotassium: 913mgFiber: 9gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 2997IUVitamin C: 159mgCalcium: 156mgIron: 3mg
Keyword broccoli, Pasta, penne
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