Baked cheesy pasta with broccoli is just like your favorite dinner but with veggies. Because veggies are good for you! And, we dare say, you might enjoy them. This scrummy recipe from Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski combines good-for-you and just really good.–Jenny Latreille

Baked cheesy pasta with broccoli in a large metal casserole dish, with a serving spoon and napkin.

Baked Cheesy Pasta with Broccoli

5 / 4 votes
Broccoli and cheese make a great pair, especially in a baked pasta. You could substitute broccolini or broccoli rabe: Broccolini is slightly sweeter than broccoli, while broccoli rabe is pleasingly bitter.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories507 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces fusilli or other short pasta
  • 1 large (1 1/2 lbs) bunch broccoli*, trimmed, florets and stems chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the panko, parsley, if using, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup (25 g) of the Parmesan, the lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • In a small skillet over medium-low heat, or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour over the panko mixture, and toss to coat.
  • Cook pasta in the boiling water for 2 minutes less than the al dente time indicated on the package. Add the broccoli and cook until it is crisp-tender and the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes more. Drain the pasta and broccoli in a .
  • Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pot and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, until the mixture begins to bubble, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk, about 1/3 cup (80 ml) at a time, whisking until smooth between additions. Bring to a simmer, whisking, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, add the mozzarella, remaining 1/2 cup (50 g) Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon salt, and whisk together until the cheese is mostly melted (the mozzarella may not fully incorporate into the sauce; this is okay).
  • Add the pasta, broccoli, and lemon juice, if using, to the sauce and toss to combine. Dump into a large cast-iron skillet or 2-quart (2 L) baking dish and top with the bread crumb mixture.
  • Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken before serving.


*What is the difference between broccoli, broccolini, and broccoli rabe?

Antoni Porowski makes the suggestion to change up your vegetables in this dish, going from broccoli to broccoli-adjacent. If you’ve never had broccolini or broccoli rabe, how do you know which to choose?
Broccoli rabe (also called rapini or turnip broccoli) is a dark leafy green in the turnip family with a rather bitter taste. It actually tastes nothing like broccoli and tastes more like mustard greens. As far as looks go, it has fewer, smaller florets and lots of large leaves.
Broccolini is closer to broccoli than rapini is, because it’s actually a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan (Chinese kale). The taste is closer to broccoli and is sweet and mild with a bit of a crisp texture. The stalks are long and slim, with lots of florets and very few, small leaves.
Let's Do Dinner

Adapted From

Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 507 kcalCarbohydrates: 48 gProtein: 25 gFat: 24 gSaturated Fat: 14 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 70 mgSodium: 562 mgFiber: 5 gSugar: 9 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Antoni Porowski. Photo © 2021 Paul Brissman. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

My family loves mac & cheese and while I do have two main recipes, I still love to try new ones to get other ideas. The flavor of this cheesy baked pasta with broccoli was mild but good and the broccoli was a nice addition.

What likely makes this work is cooking the broccoli briefly at the end of the noodles cooking time. I’d recommend checking the cooking time on the package because you might have to make an adjustment in the time to cook the pasta. While we liked the mozzarella, my family tends to like a sharper cheese or a blend of cheeses now. This recipe can easily be adapted to fit this taste.

I love macaroni and cheese, but I rarely make it. Because, calories. But throw in some broccoli with it and all of a sudden I can get with the program! 

A cast-iron skillet filled with baked cheesy pasta with broccoli.

This rendition of mac and cheese was on the non-traditional side. Not just because of the addition of broccoli, but also because it included lemon, and used mozzarella instead of the usual cheddar. Just giving a heads up, this recipe may not be for everyone. But I actually enjoyed the hit of lemon and the switch to mozzarella. It made for a less rich-tasting dish. I served this with garlic prawns and a lemony Caesar salad, and the pairing worked very well. I can already see adding a can of tuna to this preparation for an all-in-one complete meal.

There’s still room in my repertoire for the classic mac ‘n cheese, but this one also earns a worthy spot in my recipe rotation.

I’ve tried all kinds of mac and cheese in my time but I don’t recall any with lemon zest and juice as an ingredient so I was intrigued. This cheesy baked pasta with broccoli was a simple dish to prepare. Cooking the pasta and broccoli in the same water and then using the same pot to prepare the sauce is genius. Simplicity and easy clean-up are always a plus in my book. 

The sauce was light and cheesy with a nice hint of lemon that complimented the broccoli. When making this dish be sure to let it rest after baking as recommended as the sauce will thicken quite a bit. I served this as an entrée but would also be good as a side dish.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This was great (no lemon, no thyme.). Came out perfect. Lots left over as there are only two of us. I am freezing for another night.