This simple ricotta cheese and broccoli pasta is the perfect quick weeknight dinner. A lighter, but still flavorful, version of traditional mac and cheese that’s made in under 30 minutes. Great for Meatless Mondays or as a side dish.
It can be a scramble to get dinner on the table during busy weeknights. It’s a good idea to have a bank of easy recipes like a skillet sausage and pepper pasta or chicken with sun dried tomatoes so you always have something quick to whip up when you don’t have time to spend in the kitchen. There’s nothing like a pasta dinner recipe.
Not only is this broccoli pasta recipe quick to put together, but it’s not as heavy as a classic baked macaroni and cheese. While it’s still packed with creamy flavor, it has less calories along with the addition of broccoli for a more balanced meal. Adding ricotta makes it creamy without the need for heavy cream.
What does ricotta go with?
You may have tried ricotta on crostini with grapes, but it is absolutely to die for when added to pasta. When combined with parmesan cheese, you get a light, but creamy sauce perfect for macaroni pasta. Ricotta also goes great with tomatoes, bell peppers, or pesto. All of which you can add to this mac n cheese for more flavor.
Ricotta doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own which makes it so versatile. Try adding it to lemon chiffon pie for the creamiest texture and it’s a game changer for stuffed shells.
Why you need to make ricotta cheese and broccoli pasta
- It’s dinner in under 30 minutes with simple ingredients for an extremely easy recipe
- The roasted broccoli adds flavor without being too overbearing for those picky eaters
- A lighter alternative to the classic mac and cheese
- Easily pair it with chicken breasts
Simple ingredients for making broccoli pasta
- Roasted broccolini – broccolini is is a little more tender than traditional broccoli, but you can use either. If using regular broccoli, just cut it into smaller pieces.
- Garlic – Freshly minced garlic gives this broccoli pasta more flavor than pre-minced garlic or garlic powder.
- Olive oil – One of the easiest things you can do to make Italian recipes phenomenal is to use high quality olive oil.
- Spices – Sea salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, onion powder, and other Italian spices are the basics but feel free to add more.
- Pasta – A small pasta like cavatappi, penne pasta, or pasta shells is recommended.
- Ricotta – No need for heavy cream or whole milk when using ricotta. The full fat version has enough creaminess by itself.
- Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated parmesan cheese is all that’s needed along with the ricotta for a creamy coating.
What’s the difference between broccoli and broccolini
Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. The stems are thinner and it tends to be a little more tender. Either will work in this pasta dish, but broccolini will not be as harsh which may appeal to your picky eaters.
Why roast broccoli
If you’ve never roasted broccoli you’re in for a treat. You get crispy edges with tender stalks. Roasting gives it the best flavor that you won’t get when you steam it. Plus it’s super quick and easy.
How to make Ricotta and Broccoli Pasta
Step 1: Roast the broccoli
Toss fresh broccoli florets with olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and any additional spices you’d like in a small bowl. Roast until the chunks of broccoli are crisp with browned edges.
Step 2: Cook the pasta
While the broccoli is cooking, boil a pot of water. (Don’t forget to salt the water!) Cook pasta as directed on the package. When done cooking, strain the pasta but save one cup of salted water – we’ll need that later.
Step 3: Sauce it up!
In a large bowl, add the ricotta and ½ cup of the hot pasta water, stir until it is smooth.
Add broccolini and pasta. Add more pasta water if desired then top with parmesan cheese and serve.
Pro tip: Drain any excess liquid the ricotta may have before cooking. You can do this by letting it sit in a sieve for a few minutes. Too much extra liquid can change the texture of the sauce.
You can change this recipe up in all sorts of ways:
- Try adding a squeeze of lemon
- Add some Italian seasoning
- Add extra pepper flakes for more spice
- Throw in more broccoli if you love your veggies.
- Make it a full meal by adding in some rotisserie chicken.
What is the difference between ricotta and Italian ricotta?
In the United States, ricotta is almost always made from whey which is derived from cow’s milk. While in Italy, ricotta is made from goat’s milk, buffalo milk, or even sheep’s milk.
How do you make store bought ricotta taste better?
Make store bought ricotta taste better by adding a few simple herbs and spices. Lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and other Italian spices will elevate the flavor.
You can store this broccoli mac in the fridge for up to 4 days. Make sure you let the dish cool to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container. Use the same method for freezing and freeze for up to 4 months.
Reheat pasta on the stovetop on medium heat stirring continuously. Or, reheat in 30-second intervals in the microwave.
More easy dinner recipes
- This cast iron skillet pizza has a deep dish style for the easiest, and most authentic, pizza recipe
- Throw this chicken in white wine together in minutes with a few simple ingredients
- If you’re a cheese lover, you have to try these beef and cheese enchiladas
- Opt for slow cooked salmon with citrus for something simple with a special occasion feel
If you love mac and cheese try some of these pasta casseroles
If you loved this recipe, give it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating! Also, snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #butterandbaggage and tagging me @butterandbaggage.
Ricotta Cheese and Broccoli Pasta
- 2 bunches broccolini cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound pasta cavatappi or any short pasta
- 1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 425º
- Combine broccolini, garlic and red pepper flakes and drizzle with oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 12 minutes until it is still crisp but browed on the edges
- While the broccolini is roasting, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. Drain reserving 1 cup of pasta water
- In a large bowl, add the ricotta and ½ cup of the hot pasta water, stir until it is smooth. Add broccolini and pasta. Add more pasta water if it is dry. Top with parmesan cheese
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use low fat ricotta, or go all out and get ricotta from an Italian market!
- If using broccoli instead of broccolini, cut it into small pieces.
- You can add more pepper flakes or Italian seasoning for more flavor.
- Try adding rotisserie chicken.
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