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Cavatelli and Broccoli

Cavatelli and Broccoli is a classic Italian dish that is super tasty and nutritious. Plus, it’s one of the best comfort dishes around that you can make in 30 minutes or less!

cavatelli and broccoli on white plate with second plate of broccoli pasta in the background.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Cavatelli and Broccoli will surprise you with how complex the flavors are. The combination of broccoli with smokey bacon, garlic and parmesan is a burst of savory goodness in your mouth.

With this recipe, you’ll have the whole family eating lots of broccoli and loving it because it’s so tasty. Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli is another dish your family will enjoy!

The best part is that Cavatelli and Broccoli is so quick to make. It’s faster to make this pasta than ordering take out and everyone is happy! Store bought pasta is perfectly fine but it’s not hard to make your own homemade cavatelli or try making your own ricotta cavatelli.

If you have more time, serve Cavatelli and Broccoli with my butterfly chicken recipe, your family will love it as much as mine does.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredient notes

overhead view of ingredients for broccoli pasta as in the recipe card.

Along with the usual Italian pasta ingredients, for Cavatelli and Broccoli you’ll need:

  • broccoli – lots of it – 2 big heads
  • bacon lardons – which gives amazing flavor and smokiness
  • cavatelli – homemade or store bought
  • red pepper (chilli) flakes – this is optional

Variations

  • cauliflower can be substituted for part or all of the broccoli for a different flavor. Also make my amazing instant pot cauliflower as a side dish to serve.
  • instead of bacon lardons, I like to use smoked Italian pancetta (if available)
  • for a vegetarian version of cavatelli and broccoli, leave out the bacon
  • add pitted black olives
  • use pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan

Instructions

4-step photo collage showing how to make cavatelli and  broccoli.

Begin by putting a large pot of salted water on to boil.

  1. In a skillet or frying pan, gently cook the bacon lardons adding the garlic and red pepper (chilli) flakes, (if using) at the end.
  2. In the meantime, add the broccoli in the boiling water until just tender. Then add to pan with bacon.
  3. Keep the water boiling and cook the pasta in it. Once cooked, strain (reserving a little cooking water) and add to the bacon and broccoli.
  4. Toss gently to combine adding Parmesan, reserved pasta water and extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with a bowl of crunchy pangrattato and extra Parmesan cheese so that everyone can help themselves to what they like.

Tips for success and FAQ’s

Bringing a large pot of water to the boil can take time. Speed this up by pouring a kettle full of boiling water into the pot. Top up with more hot water as needed and you’ll have boiling water in just a few minutes.

Broccoli for this pasta dish needs to be tender. Piece the stalk with a fork to check for doneness. Remember that it will keep cooking so don’t take it too far. However, I do love when some of the broccoli softens and melts into the sauce.

Can I use frozen broccoli to make Cavatelli and Broccoli?

Yes, however since frozen broccoli is generally precooked, it only needs heating. Therefore, just cook for around 2 minutes in the boiling water before removing with a slotted spoon.

What are bacon lardons?

Lardons are cut from a slab of bacon into short, batons.

If I want to substitute smoked Italian pancetta, what am I looking for?

This pancetta is flat as opposed to rolled. It has an intense flavor and fat content which add fantastic flavor to this Cavatelli and Broccoli pasta dish. However, it is not always readily available.

cavatelli and broccoli on white plate and someone taking a forkful of pasta.

More recipes like this

Nut Free Pesto
Homemade Busiate Pasta
Ligurian Focaccia

Made this recipe?
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This updated recipe was first published on April 18, 2010.

cavatelli and broccoli on white plate and someone taking a forkful of pasta.

Cavatelli and Broccoli Recipe

A combination of broccoli with bacon or pancetta, garlic and freshly grated Parmesan cheese together with cavatelli pasta is a burst of savory goodness in your mouth.
5 from 121 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings:4 people
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 3 oz (85 grams) bacon lardons or smoked Italian pancetta (see notes)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound (450 grams) cavatelli pasta store bought or homemade
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To Serve

  • Extra freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Begin by place a large pot of well salted water on to boil.
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice garlic. Cut stalks from the broccoli, peel, then cut into thin slices. Cut the broccoli heads into small florets.
  • Place the bacon lardons and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in large, cold frying pan. Set it over low/medium heat. As the pan heats up the fat in the bacon will start to melt and release all it's flavor. Continue cooking the bacon for 3-4 minutes or until browned and become a little crispy and the fat is rendering.
  • In the meantime, add florets and stalk slices to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes or until the stalks are just tender but still firm. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a colander. Keep water boiling.
  • Add cavatelli to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain cavatelli, reserving ½ cup cooking water.
  • Add the sliced garlic to the bacon. Cook, stirring for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the red pepper (chilli) flakes and broccoli. Stir over heat for a minute or two. If the pasta isn't ready, turn the heat off until you add the cavatelli to avoid overcooking the broccoli.
  • Add cavatelli, Parmesan, reserved cooking water and remaining extra virgin olive to the pan. Toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust with a little more salt, if needed.
  • Pile into a serving bowl and sprinkle with extra freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

Notes

Top Tips
  • Use lots of water to boil the cavatelli. Add the salt when the water comes to the boil and never add oil to the water to cook pasta.
  • Be sure that the broccoli cook until tender but not over cook. Some broccoli softening and melting into the sauce is good though
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 763kcal | Carbohydrates: 107g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 1025mg | Potassium: 1280mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2076IU | Vitamin C: 272mg | Calcium: 309mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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Recipe Rating




11 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    my family always used anchovies instead of bacon. both ways are amazing but do I dare use both anchovies and bacon? I’ll let everyone know how it turns out.

  2. 5 stars
    What a cozy dish! My whole family adored it. I highly recommend preparing your ricotta cavatelli. It took this smoky rich dish to the next level and was definitely worth the added time and effort.

  3. 5 stars
    A quick and delicious dinner is always welcome on my menu. My family loved it, thanks!

  4. 5 stars
    This classic Italian dish was super tasty! Broccoli, bacon, and Cavatelli make a great combination! I will be making this again soon!

  5. 5 stars
    I always wanted to make something authentically Italian with Cavatelli pasta, just didn’t know what until I found this recipe. It was such an easy midweek dinner, the kids loved it too!

  6. 5 stars
    Simple pasta recipes are the best. You can whip this up any night of the week. Love the combination of broccoli and pasta too.

  7. 5 stars
    Easy quick to prepare and so tasty too. Could I have some with extra portion of bacon and Parmesan please 🙂
    Angie