Orecchiette with Broccoli and Lemon is a vegetarian pasta dish that's the perfect easy weeknight dinner. It's loaded with veggies, comes together in a flash, and is simple yet still sophisticated.
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I don't know if it's the shifting weather, boredom with my regular routine, or what, but I've been craving warm food like woah these days.
Having typed that, I think it's probably the weather, but I've also been experiencing this weird phenomenon where I'm like, ugh, I'm too tired to make a salad tonight! So instead I'll make vegetarian Okonomiyaki or a pasta dish or something else that's obviously way more work than a salad but is a) warm, and b) different.
This here Orecchiette with Broccoli and Lemon, though? It's only marginally more work than making a salad, and since it's more broccoli than it is pasta by weight, I'm going to argue that it's basically the same thing. (<-- Just kidding. I do have two university degrees in nutrition, and say what you might about mainstream nutrition, but never have I been taught that pasta is a vegetable.)
Do you have a spirit pasta? Orecchiette is mine. I don't know what it is, but every time I see a packet I just have to buy it. They're just so damn cute!
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy bowties and fusilli as much as the next guy, but those tidy, compact little ears get me every time. Broccoli is my favourite vegetable, so it was only natural to bring it together with orecchiette in this simple yet delicious Orecchiette with Broccoli and Lemon dish.
It's my favourite kind of quick and easy weeknight dinner; one that you can whip together in a matter of minutes with ingredients you've probably already got on hand, yet the end result is sophisticated enough that you could serve it at an impromptu dinner party.
What do I need to make this recipe?
Here's what we've got going on:
- Orecchiette --> Heyyyy, cute little pasta ears!
- Broccoli --> Yay, favourite veg!
- Lemon --> Lot's o' lemon
- Garlic --> Sliced nice n' thin
- Olive oil --> Bust out your good stuff, please
- Red pepper flakes --> To spice up your life
- Parmesan --> - Or sub in nutritional yeast to keep things vegan
Do I need any special equipment?
Not really. I like to make this dish in my favourite cast iron pan, but really any heavy-bottomed pan you have on hand would work just fine.
Otherwise you just need a big pot to boil the pasta and broccoli, and a colander for draining everything. That's it!
How do I make this recipe?
You're going to have to dirty up two pans to make Orecchiette with Broccoli and Lemon, but I think you'll find it well worth your while. One pot does double duty for blanching broccoli and then cooking up the orecchiette (in the same water, yo!) while the other infuses thinly sliced garlic and lemon zest in olive oil.
Everything ultimately ends up partying in the same pan with a pinch of red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lemon, and a healthy dusting of your favourite parm or parm-like substitute. Honestly, I can't think of any good reason this shouldn't be your very next meal.
Can I use a different vegetable?
For sure. I think this recipe would be great with broccoli rabe, which is impossible to find where I live. But you can also mix and match and use whatever your favourite vegetables are. This just happens to be my ultimate combo.
Hey Nutrition Lady, what's the deal with broccoli?
Broccoli is good for you, right? It is a great source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and high broccoli consumption is thought to be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease and some cancers. Broccoli is rich in a host of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, as well as antioxidant flavanoids and carotenoids. Like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is heart-healthy and also benefits our digestive health by both supporting and regulating our gut bacteria.
Orecchiette with Broccoli and Lemon
- 1 bunch broccoli about 1 ½ lbs / 700g
- 12 ounces orecchiette
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- freshly grated parmesan
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil over high heat.
- Roughly break the broccoli into florets and chop the stems. Add to the boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli from the water and onto a clean kitchen towel. Allow the broccoli to cool slightly.
- Generously salt the same water, and add the orecchiette. Stir to break up the pasta, and then cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Add the garlic, and cook gently until fragrant, careful to not let the garlic brown.
- Squeeze the water from the broccoli and transfer to a cutting board. Chop the florets and stems into small pieces, and then transfer into the pan with the garlic. Add the lemon zest and red pepper flakes.
- When the pasta is done, use a slotted spoon to transfer it directly into the pan with the broccoli, adding a little pasta water as you do so.
- Toss well, add a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper. If needed, add a bit of extra pasta water to thin it out.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan and wedges of lemon to squeeze over top.
- Nutrition values are an estimate only
First posted November 13, 2017. Edited, updated, and republished on March 7, 2020.