Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

Pasta of any kind is very popular in my house. Both my husband, Bill, and my oldest son, Liam, could eat it for days. Bill usually goes back for seconds and thirds on pasta night. So, when I decided we were going to have rigatoni with Roman broccoli sauce for dinner, there were no objections.


This pasta dish is fairly simple to make with just a handful of ingredients. It also uses up that broccoli that’s been sitting in the fridge. So, win-win. The flavors are bright and a tad spicy. It’s a great springtime meal that goes very well with a glass of white wine. It’s not overly fancy, but it is definitely filling. Bill was very pleased with it, indeed. It always makes me happy when I can find a dish that everyone in the house really likes.


Now this dish did call for quite a bit of salt, but I only added the first two tablespoons of salt to the cooking water in the beginning as requested. For us, that actually salted the dish more than enough. Any more salt and we would have found it to be too salty. Of course, this is our personal taste, so feel free to add more if you think it needs to be kicked up a notch (the same always goes for garlic as well).


Anyway, this dish will probably be made in our home quite often, especially when we have broccoli in the house. It really is a tasty way to use it up (especially on pasta).


Total Time: 35 minutes

Serves: 4


1 lb broccoli, stems, florets, and leaves separated, stems peeled

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups packed baby spinach

2 medium garlic cloves, chopped

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) salted butter, cut into four pieces

1 tbsp drained capers

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest, divided

12 ounces rigatoni pasta

1 ounce Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana, finely grated (1/2 cup), plus more to serve


In a large pot, boil 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt. Cut the broccoli stems crosswise in 1/2 inch rounds. Add the stems and leaves to the water and cook until fully tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the blender; reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water. Keep the water at a boil.

Cut the broccoli florets into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces. Add the florets to the boiling water and cook until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled. Again, keep the water at a boil.

To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted this salt because I found it to be salty enough already), 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the reserved cooking water. Puree until smooth and bright, 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I only added the pepper).

Stir the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli puree, 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the cheese.

Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if need be.


Recipe from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street




4 thoughts on “Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

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