Lemon Butter Broccoli Pasta with garlic, chiles, and golden basil breadcrumbs will become a weeknight dinner favorite. Between the crisp-tender broccoli and luscious lemon butter sauce, this broccoli pasta recipe will have even the pickiest eaters coming back for seconds.
Why You'll Love this Lemon Butter Broccoli Pasta:
This recipe is all about simple, fresh ingredients coming together to create something truly delicious. Plus, it comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it 100% weeknight-approved.
If you have picky eaters/veggie avoiders on hand, I have a feeling this recipe will have them singing a different tune. The garlicky lemon butter sauce makes broccoli taste downright decadent--especially when topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
This broccoli pasta recipe is also super versatile. You can simply enjoy as is, or add grilled chicken, roasted salmon, or a dollop of pesto for extra richness. Alternatively, you can bump up the protein by using a chickpea or lentil-based pasta, such as Banza or Tolerant brand.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Broccoli: You need 6 cups of chopped broccoli florets, which should veer on the smaller side. Ideally, the florets should be similar in size to whichever pasta shape you decide on.
- Pasta: Any shape you like/have on hand works here! I personally like something with spirals or twirls, however large shells are also a fun option. For a gluten-free/higher protein alternative, use chickpea or lentil-based pasta, such as Banza or Tolerant brand.
- Lemon: You need the zest AND juice of 1 whole lemon for this recipe. If you don't already own a citrus zester, I use this one and love it.
- Garlic: I like adding LOTS of garlic to really make the lemon butter sauce thing. I suggest a minimum of 4 cloves, however feel free to add as much or as little as you like.
- Chiles: The mild heat from chili flakes help add dimension to the simple sauce. For mild heat, use ¼ tsp, and for medium heat, increase to ½ tsp.
- Butter: Look for a grass-fed and/or pasture-raised butter, such as Kerrygold or Vital Farms brand.
- Breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs add texture and richness to the broccoli pasta. I also love adding some pine nuts or chopped walnuts to the mix for extra richness.
- Cheese: Grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese works great here.
Step 1: Toast Breadcrumbs
Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add panko and pine nuts; stir to coat evenly. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes; season with salt. Transfer to a bowl and stir in fresh basil. Set aside.
Step 2: Boil Pasta
Cook pasta in a large pot of SALTED water until just shy of al dente. Before draining, reserver ¾ cup of pasta cooking water.
Step 3: Sauté Broccoli
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add broccoli and cook 6 to 7 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until vibrant green and crisp-tender. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt, and transfer broccoli to a plate. Reduce heat to medium.
Step 4: Cook Garlic, Chiles, and Lemon Zest
Add butter to pan, along with garlic, chili flakes, and lemon zest; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until aromatic. Pour in reserved pasta cooking liquid and lemon juice; simmer 2 minutes.
Step 5: Combine Pasta and Broccoli
Add pasta and broccoli to skillet and toss with lemon butter sauce. Gradually sprinkle in Parmesan cheese, while stirring continuously to avoid clumping, until sauce begins clinging to noodles.
Spoon pasta onto plates and scatter basil breadcrumbs overtop. Serve with extra basil and cheese, if desired.
This recipe is super versatile, and can almost be thought of as a blank canvas for achieving peak pasta satisfaction. Here are some other ideas of how to switch up the recipe:
- Chicken Broccoli Pasta: Add grilled chicken breast or shredded rotisserie chicken to the pasta for extra protein.
- Broccoli Pesto Pasta: Toss in a scoop of homemade or store-bought pesto for added richness and flavor.
- Salmon and Broccoli Pasta: Top each serving with a piece of broiled or sautéed salmon.
- Creamy Broccoli Pasta: Stir in 2 ounces of cream cheese to the lemon butter sauce to amp up the creaminess. Alternatively, you can add a splash of heavy cream to the sauce.
How to Make-Ahead, Store, and Reheat:
- Make-Ahead: Chop the broccoli up to 2 days ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Store: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. (Note: it's best to store the crispy panko mixture separately in a zip-top bag at room temperature.)
- Reheat: Place in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 2 minutes, stopping to stir every 30 seconds, until warm. Alternatively, heat in a medium skillet over medium heat, adding a splash of water as needed to rehydrate the noodles, until warm.
What are the Benefits of Broccoli?
Broccoli is a nutrition powerhouse high in fiber, iron and vitamins A and C. It also offers a decent amount of potassium and folate—two nutrients most folks don’t get nearly enough of.
And, fun fact: Frozen varieties contain about 35% more eye-healthy beta-carotene since they’re mostly florets. However I also have BIG love for broccoli stalks, which are a rich source of prebiotics.
And although broccoli is available all year, it peaks from October through April, which is when it’s richest in nutrients.
More Easy Vegetarian Pasta Recipes:
If you give this recipe a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates! I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review!
Lemon Butter Broccoli Pasta
- Large stockpot
- Large skillet
- 3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. unsalted butter
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts or walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 12 oz. dry pasta of choice (use chickpea or lentil-based pasta for gluten-free/higher protein)
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cups small broccoli florets
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¼ to ½ tsp. chili flakes (¼ teaspoon for mild heat, ½ teaspoon for medium)
- Zest and juice of 1 whole lemon, divided
- ½ tsp. cracked black pepper
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
- Prepare Basil Breadcrumbs: Heat 2 tsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add panko and pine nuts (or walnuts). Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes; season with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl and stir in fresh basil. Wipe skillet clean.
- Boil Pasta: Cook pasta in a large pot of SALTED water until just shy of al dente. Before draining, reserve ¾ cup of pasta cooking water.
- Sauté Broccoli: While pasta cooks, add olive oil to the same skillet you toasted the breadcrumbs in over medium-high heat. Once hot, add broccoli and cook 6 to 7 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until vibrant green and crisp-tender. Season with ¼ tsp. salt, and transfer broccoli to a plate. Reduce heat to medium. Prepare Lemon Butter Sauce: Add remaining 3 Tbsp. butter to pan, along with garlic, chili flakes, and lemon zest; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until aromatic. Pour in reserved pasta cooking liquid, lemon juice, remaining ½ tsp. salt, and black pepper; simmer 2 minutes.
- Assemble: Add cooked pasta and broccoli to skillet and toss with lemon butter sauce. Gradually sprinkle in Parmesan cheese, while stirring continuously to avoid clumping, until sauce begins clinging to noodles. Spoon pasta into bowls and sprinkle basil breadcrumbs overtop. Serve with extra basil and cheese, if desired.