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How to Make Broccoli Pesto Pasta: Broccoli Pesto Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 2 min read

Fresh basil pesto is one of the more flavorful perks of summer: Lush, peppery basil leaves with garlicky heat, the nutty umami of Parmesan cheese, buttery pine nuts, and bright acidity from a fresh lemon are as perfect a combination as they come—and there’s still plenty of room for a range of other supporting vegetables to get in on the action. Carrot tops, kale, and even broccoli can take a standard pesto to the next level.



What Types of Pasta Pair Best With Pesto Sauce?

Longer noodles like spaghetti, bucatini, or tagliatelle are a traditional choice for pesto sauce. Penne, fusilli, or elbows are also great options, especially when used in a chilled or room temperature presentation like pasta salad. For a vegan, gluten-free meal, zucchini noodles are a natural complement to fresh pesto.

What to Serve With Pesto Pasta

Pair pesto pasta with garlic bread, a fresh green salad with a tart red wine vinaigrette, or a spread of antipasto, like cured meats, olives, and cheeses. Sautéed or roasted veggies—think glazed carrots, or a grilled summer squash salad—work well with pesto’s seasonality.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta Recipe

Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min


  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4–5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (you can also adjust this amount to preference)
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, from about 1 lemon
  • 3–4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 box dried (or 3 cups fresh) pasta of choice
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add broccoli to the boiling water, and cook until crowns are bright green and stalks are tender, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, remove the broccoli florets (reserve the cooking water, as this will be used for the pasta) and transfer to a food processor. Let cool.
  3. Add garlic cloves, basil, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, pine nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Blend until pesto is smooth and has a pourable consistency; if the mixture looks a little thick, add more olive oil. When the texture looks right, taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper or lemon juice as needed.
  4. Add pasta noodles to the boiling water, and cook until al dente, 2–3 minutes if using fresh pasta, or 8–10 if using dried.
  5. Unlike other sauces, it’s best not to cook pesto; extended exposure to heat dulls its delicate, zingy flavors. Instead of draining the finished pasta from the pot, use tongs or a spider strainer to transfer the al dente noodles to a large bowl, then add the pesto sauce directly on top.
  6. Create that signature saucy texture by adding reserved pasta water to the bowl ¼ cup at a time, mixing vigorously with tongs, until desired consistency is achieved.
  7. Serve immediately, topped with toasted pine nuts.

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