by Olena

Healthy Pasta with Pesto and Broccoli

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Olena Osipov
4.9 from 51 votes

Healthy Pasta with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and your pasta of choice in 30-ish minutes. Quick, easy and delicious weeknight dinner.

We love this vegetarian pasta recipe as much as we love mushroom stroganoff and penne with broccoli.

Healthy Pasta

Healthy Pasta Recipe

This healthy pasta is one of the most popular recipes on iFOODreal. And there is a good reason for that – it’s fresh, light, flavorful, and loaded with veggies! Of course, we sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese for balance. It comes together in less than 30 minutes from prep to clean up.

Part of what makes this pasta recipe so quick and easy is using your favourite store-bought pesto sauce. If you have a jar of homemade or you don’t mind taking the time to make your own, go for it! Save your leftover pesto for this turkey zucchini or pesto chicken. Because carbs one day equals low carbs the next!

Enjoy coating all of those juicy tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and tender broccoli florets in the creamiest sauce. This summer inspired vegetarian dish is perfect all year round! Just like our Tuscan chicken pasta and healthy chicken alfredo.

healthy pasta in a skillet

Is Pasta Healthy?

So, this question. I’m sure if you ask the millions Italians if pasta is healthy they may have a thought or two! I know it’s white pasta and it might seem like an oxymoron to show up in “a healthy pasta recipe,” but here’s the scoop.

  • First, you’re loading it up with veggies: You can never go wrong with including more vegetables in your diet.
  • Second,  you can use ANY pasta you want: Gluten-free, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, kamut pasta. You name it! Pictured is my kids’ favourite organic Garofalo brand from Costco. It’s one of the best quality pasta I ever tried.
  • And third, please friends, don’t forget that “health” has many components: Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercise and avoiding stress.  So, go have a nap, drink a glass of water, do some yoga, then reward yourself with a bowl of pasta for dinner 😉

Is Pesto Healthy?

It can absolutely be incredibly healthy, especially if you use homemade pesto. If using store-bought, try to find one with as fewer additives as possible. All there is to a basic pesto is olive oil, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and salt.

What Is the Best Parmesan Cheese?

And a word on Parmesan cheese. As with any cheese, freshly grated is the way to go. Pre-packaged usually comes with a lot of extra junk. So, forego the shaker-faker, it’s full of additives like cellulose (a fibre extracted by wood fibre, if you can believe it) and other garbage.

Buy a hunk of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, grate a good amount at a time and then refrigerate in an airtight container for a few weeks. Freeze the rest of the hunk and use grated cheese to sprinkle on ground turkey pasta, spaghetti and minestrone soup.

Ingredients for this Healthy Pasta Recipe

  • Pasta: Any shape, any type, uncooked.
  • Veggies: Broccoli florets, coarsely chopped. Sun-dried tomatoes (dry or packed in oil), thinly sliced. Grape tomatoes halved.
  • Pesto sauce: Store-bought or homemade pesto, divided. Pasta water, reserved.
  • Seasoning: Garlic cloves, minced. Salt. Red pepper flakes. Ground black pepper, to taste.
  • Oil: Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

How to Make Healthy Pasta

  • Prep: Cook your pasta as per package directions. Because this tomato pesto pasta dish cooks fast (like a stir fry), you want to gather your ingredients and have them ready to go. Timing is everything for ultimate flavour and an al dente texture to the pasta. Ingredients for vegetarian pesto pasta
  • Cook pasta, saute veggies: While pasta is cooking, saute garlic in olive oil for a few seconds. Stir frequently. Add a bit of pesto and tomatoes and give it a stir. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes and stir again. Move ingredients to one side of the skillet, making sure the empty spot is right above the heat. Add a bit of pesto and broccoli to the empty spot in the skillet and cook stirring once. how to make healthy pasta
  • Drain pasta: When pasta is finished cooking, drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Set pasta aside.
  • Combine: Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining pesto. Toss in the sun-dried tomatoes, salt, black pepper, red pepper, flakes, pasta, and pasta water. Stir gently to combine and let the flavours meld together, and watch how creamy and delicious this becomes. At this point, you can add in half of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese and save the other half for sprinkling right before serving.premade pesto and parmesan cheese for healthy veggie pasta

Tips and Variations

  • Fresh basil: A delicious basil pesto sauce is an awesome start, but why not throw in a few fresh basil leaves for an added burst of fresh herbs!
  • Serve a crowd: Easily double this recipe to serve a larger crowd. Summer BBQs have a new star of the show!
  • Protein: For added protein, throw in some baked turkey meatballs or chopped up turkey burger.
  • Veggies: Instead of, or in addition to, the broccoli, you can add in some bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms.
  • Added presentation: This dish is already stunning. The pop of red tomatoes, the green in the pesto, it’s all so pretty! What if you had a variety of cherry tomatoes? Add in some yellow tomatoes for a burst of yellow and a subtle sweetness!
  • Frozen broccoli: If you are using frozen broccoli, you don’t need to thaw first. Just toss it in and cook until thawed right in the skillet. Because it was frozen, keep an extra eye out so that it doesn’t get overcooked and mushy.
  • A burst of citrus: Squeeze a little lemon juice in with your pesto sauce and enjoy a little extra bright flavour to this dish. A lovely balance to the earthy herbed pesto.
  • Serve with: As filling and delicious as this is as a main, a smaller portion can definitely be served as a side dish. It accompanies a juicy turkey burger or lemon butter baked cod very nicely!

Storing, Freezing, and Reheating

Store: This amazing pasta dish will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days if it lasts that long!

Freeze: If you have leftovers or made more than enough, you can definitely freeze it for up to 3 months.

Reheat: To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat on the stovetop on low-medium heat. Add a bit more pesto if needed. OR! Eat it cold straight out of the fridge and enjoy a pasta salad for lunch.

More Healthy Recipes

Healthy Pasta with Pesto and Broccoli

Healthy Pasta with Pesto and Broccoli

Healthy Pasta with broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and your pasta of choice in 30-ish minutes. Quick, easy and delicious weeknight dinner.
4.91 from 51 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 218kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 2 cups any shape pasta uncooked
  • 1 cup pasta water reserved
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp pesto divided
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes cut in halves
  • 4 cups broccoli florets coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook pasta as per package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, draining the rest. Set aside.
  • While pasta is cooking, get all ingredients ready. Preheat large deep skillet or a dutch oven on medium heat, add olive oil and garlic. Sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
  • Add 1 tbsp pesto, tomatoes and stir. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes, stir and cook another 1 - 2 minutes. Move to one side of the skillet and make sure the empty side of is positioned directly over heat. Add 1 tbsp pesto and broccoli, stir and cook for 4 minutes, stirring once.
  • Remove skillet from heat and add remaining 1/4 cup pesto, sun dried tomatoes, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, pasta and pasta water. Stir gently and let flavours marinate for a few minutes. Do not cover because broccoli will become a mushy mess. I also like to add half Parmesan cheese in this step and the other half right before serving. Serve hot.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 - 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

    Video

    Notes

    • Fresh basil: A delicious basil pesto sauce is an awesome start, but why not throw in a few fresh basil leaves for an added burst of fresh herbs!
    • Serve a crowd: Easily double this recipe to serve a larger crowd. Summer BBQs have a new star of the show!
    • Protein: For added protein, throw in some baked turkey meatballs or chopped up turkey burger.
    • Veggies: Instead of, or in addition to, the broccoli, you can add in some bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms.
    • Added presentation: This dish is already stunning. The pop of red tomatoes, the green in the pesto, it's all so pretty! What if you had a variety of cherry tomatoes? Add in some yellow tomatoes for a burst of yellow and a subtle sweetness!
    • Frozen broccoli: If you are using frozen broccoli, you don't need to thaw first. Just toss it in and cook until thawed right in the skillet. Because it was frozen, keep an extra eye out so that it doesn't get overcooked and mushy.
    • A burst of citrus: Squeeze a little lemon juice in with your pesto sauce and enjoy a little extra bright flavour to this dish. A lovely balance to the earthy herbed pesto.
    • Serve with: As filling and delicious as this is as a main, a smaller portion can definitely be served as a side dish. It accompanies a juicy turkey burger or lemon butter baked cod very nicely!

    Nutrition

    Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 459mg | Potassium: 574mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1138IU | Vitamin C: 64mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 2mg
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    olena osipov in the studio

    Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

    My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

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