by Olena

Healthy Pasta with Pesto and Broccoli

Olena Osipov
4.9 from 55 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. 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 broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and your pasta of choice in 30-ish minutes. Quick, easy and delicious weeknight dinner.
4.93 from 55 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.

    110 comments on “Healthy Pasta with Pesto and Broccoli

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    1. 5 stars
      Okay. I knew that the recipe will be good but I wasn’t expecting the pasta to be DELICIOUS! And with no meat! Even my hubby loved them and he’s crazy about food with meat. Thank you for this recipe! 🙂

    2. 4 stars
      Just cooked and ate it. It’s very good and easy to prepare. My life experience has taught me that 2 cups of uncooked pasta won’t be close to enough in a dish such as this for us, so I doubled it to 4 cups and also doubled the garlic. I don’t like much garlic but because of the doubled pasta I thought it would be needed. A great recipe that I’ll make again for sure. Thank you!

    3. 5 stars
      Made this for the first time last night. Added some fresh basil from my garden, but otherwise followed the recipe. It was so easy and very tasty! Will be making this one again.

    4. I clicked on a link about what instapot to buy, and got a pasta recipe. Recipe looks good, but I would like to know your thoughts about instapots. Please resend the link.

    5. 5 stars
      Delicious dish! My hubby who isn’t crazy about tomatoes liked it a lot. Our 14 year old daughter loves it as well. She practically licks up the “juice” when she’s done!

    6. 5 stars
      My whole family loved this and I could make while chasing after twins. I added chicken to the recipe and it’s fantastic

    7. 5 stars
      Awesome. My budding teenager is into healthy eating and it was getting a bit much funding things to suite his palate thanks to this fabulous dish Got the thumbs up from my son . I did not have cherry tomatoes so just used normal tomatoes quartered . Great start simple, healthy and good . Thankyou

    8. 4 stars
      I fudged up the timing on this recipe but it was still delicious! I greatly enjoyed the easiness and the quickness of this recipe, especially as a student who is beginning to meal prep. Excellent combination of spices too! I’ve never cooked with pesto before and was pleasantly surprised. I definitely plan on making this again and trying out variations.

      Thanks so much! 🙂

    9. 5 stars
      Thanks for this great recipe! I have a very picky newly-turned teenager and she absolutely loved this. It even went with her to school today for lunch. Granted, she picked out the sun-dried tomatoes but no matter, extra for me! I made the recipe as is for the most part and used a little extra pasta.

    10. 5 stars
      Love it! I used chickpea pasta. We are living “plant based” diet and this has lots of flavor and pleases all ages!

    11. 5 stars
      This recipe is fantastic! I’m just starting out my diet for the new year and this is an absolute must have dish!! The whole family loves it

    12. 5 stars
      Amazing! Even my picky family liked it. Will definitely be making this again as it was quick and easy as well! BONUS!!

    13. Ileana, the link is broken for Skillet Greek Sausage Corkscrew Toss, so can you please send me the recipe in full with ingredients and directions? Thank you, Helen Spanopoulos

    14. 4 stars
      This was easy to make and quite tasty.
      I think it’ll taste even better tomorrow night..

      Thanks for the recipe !!

    15. 5 stars
      According to my husband this was one of the best pastas he ever had. I used what I had on hand in the fridge. Instead of broccoli I used bell peppers and mushrooms. I’ll definitely make this recipe again. Thanks again for another great recipe.

    16. 5 stars
      Hi, Olena, sounds like a great recipe!… If I use frozen broccoli, do I reduce the cooking time, and do I defrost it first? Thanks!

      1. Because at the time we added this nutritional info, the app we use didn’t show Fiber by default. Once we turned it on, it shows for newer recipes but for older ones I have to go turn it on manually for each which is not happenning for 500 recipes.

    17. 5 stars
      Absolutely the BEST!!! We added cubed cooked chicken. Cooked in skillet with butter and seasoned salt and garlic powder.

    18. 5 stars
      I’m ADDICTED – to your website, that is!!! (smiling emoji) Seriously, I made this today after making your Chickpea Avocado Salad yesterday (and not to mention I was at a function & bragged about the salad/refreshing, etc.! I even showed them the photo from your site… more viewers for you & recipes to be made. My husband & I are “pasta” lovers & could eat it almost every day… healthy ways to cook it is what it’s all about!! Healthy eating!
      Olena. I love your site & recipes! Oh, and by the way, love your new studio, too! All the best to you.

      1. Lol that’s a good addiction. Haha, thanks for bragging. I so appreciate it. Thank you so much for all your kind words!!! If you love pasta that much, try my new recipe – meat sauce. Making video for it this week.:)

    19. 5 stars
      Made it today with Whole wheat noodles and it was great. The burst of flavors when you’re eating it is amazing. My 3 year old gave it two thumbs up.

    20. 5 stars
      Been searching around for new recipes to try out to start eating healthier, this was the first that caught my eye. Finally got around to making it tonight with a whole grain Rotini and it was amazing!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    21. 5 stars
      Very good! Not heavy, fresh and filling. Quick and easy was a bonus. Looks just like the picture. My kids (1 and 2) even liked it! I would chop sun dried tomatoes to give a more even mixture. I just wrote the recipe down and am adding to my box.

    22. 5 stars
      This was AMAZING! I wanted to make it even healthier by getting veggie pasta. Also added caprese flavored chicken sausage for some extra protein. Was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth and I cannot believe I made it myself! Thanks to this recipe ofcourse! So thankful for the extra detail in the recipe steps because I need it!

    23. Hi, I’m looking at your recipe for my parenting and child development class this week. We’re doing healthy foods for pregnant women, I was wondering is this a good meal and can you add chicken breast, if so how much?

    24. Looking forward to making this!! Are the 4 cups broccoli frozen or fresh? Does not specify in the recipe.

    25. 5 stars
      It was very easy to make and tasted very good, I used all organic vegetables and brown rice pasta. I added in some chopped walnuts in for some crunch which tasted amazing.

    26. 5 stars
      I made this for dinner last night and, oh my goodness, so yummy!! I used bow tie pasta, frozen broccoli, and a few pieces of chicken for added protein. This was seriously one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. And the best part is it is healthy and loaded with veggies! Thank you Olena. Your recipes are awesome. ?

    27. 5 stars
      Hi…i cooked this dish today and followed the recipe to a tee. Im eating it now…very delicious…i was concerned about the broccoli but it was cooked perfect. Thank you!

      1. Hi Peter. Yay! You shouldn’t be concerned about broccoli because you can eat it raw. I would only be concerned to overcook it which isn’t possible with the little cooking time I recommend.

    28. 5 stars
      Hi Olena,
      I enjoy your blog and your recipes so much, and I share them on (the dreaded) Facebook on my Fitness page often. I have always loved pasta and it is the one thing I have refused to convert completely to whole grain as I have improved my nutrition. It just isn’t the same! It was fate that brought this recipe to my email inbox as I sat down at my desk to eat my own dish of radiatore pasta with cherub tomatoes, spinach, fresh basil, and mushrooms. It’s so nice to see a healthfood blogger who doesn’t condemn white pasta. I eat mostly whole grains, and I keep my carb servings small – usually 1/2 cup (unlike when I was younger and inhaled piles and piles of it). But I don’t see anything wrong with having white pasta as a treat. Oh – and I also have had a similar journey to yours with pesto. I recently bought it to serve over pasta with shrimp that I found on sale (typically very expensive in Pittsburgh) as a treat for my husband. I stopped buying it years ago, even though I LOVE it, because it is so heavy on calories. I’ve decided to allow it back into my life once more. As a fitness coach and mom, I am also working up to blogging regularly, and yours serves as inspiration and guidance. I set up my blog page months ago, and it has collected dust ever since. Would love to change that! Thanks for your free thinking, your authenticity, and your love of flavor!
      Margie Young,
      Pittsburgh, PA

      1. Hi Margie. You have brightened my Canada Day even more! As I mature and become a more seasoned parent, wife and human being in general, I find inner piece and balance quite important. I find myself less and less involved in drama and black and white stuff. So, yes white pasta is OK as a treat. Organic preferable when I buy it. At a restaurant I won’t forbid my kids to order white pasta once a month. I am honestly over with extremes because that life is not real.
        I will try to stay true to myself as much as possible because that is what makes blogging fun. If blogging inspires you then do it. If reading other blogs inspires you then do it. If you don’t feel like working out for a week don’t do it. Whatever makes you happy. Have a great weekend! xoxo

    29. Hi there, first timer here, saw this on Pinterest thought looked so tasty so making it tonight for dinner, thank you for sharing. Also have you thought of making your own pesto, look at anoregoncottage.com I freeze mine and it’s not too fiddly to make. It tastes unbelievably good and Jami uses sunflower seeds which makes it cheaper to make. Only has in it what you put in. I top mine with olive oil as she suggests and it stays a beautiful bright green. After you’ve made it once, there’s no going back!

      1. Thank you! I started to think about that because my basil plant is going crazy which is a good thing. I will definitely do that this summer! I miss quality pesto in winter.

    30. We love this!! I want to make and freeze it for a family with a new baby – how do you suggest it be re-heated? (Baked, thawed and microwaved???). Thanks for the yumminess!!

      1. Hi Barbara. Yes, fully cooked, thawed and microwaved. They would really appreciate it. I remember being so hungry while breastfeeding and having no time to cook. First time I had time and energy though to stock my freezer with cooked meals. It was a blessing.

    31. 5 stars
      What a Great Recipe – I Made it for lunch today with wholemeal spaghetti, was Fantastic!! Thanks Olena!

    32. When I entered this recipe fir calculation of smart points, it came out to 10 smart points per serving. Not as low fat as I wanted. I’m going to to eliminate the olive oil as unnecessary and reduce the amount of sundried tomatoes to 3 tbsp and the parmesan cheese to a fat free variety to see if that makes a difference.

      1. You know, you could do that but fats are not our enemy. Healthy plant-based fats like olive oil and even grass fed organic butter in moderation. Fat doesn’t make us fat. But it is up to you. Look it up.

    33. First off – this looks awesome! Can’t wait to make it.

      Only thing that seems strange is your idea of healthy. Seems oils and fats are bad (which is not true), and if it were whole wheat pasta it would be good. The reality is that any flour or grain is a heavy carb that spikes insulin. So don’t hold back on the pesto, hold back on the pasta if you want it be healthy! 🙂

      1. Hi John. I do not think fats are bad. I don’t say it anywhere other the contrary. Especially plant based fats. Secondly, I cook 95% with whole wheat pasta. I explained in the post I used plain white organic pasta for this recipe because my kids like this shape and I can’t find it whole wheat. I do allow them it as a treat. So I think my idea of healthy is similar to yours. Glad to hear some people understand what healthy is! Because as I learnt many have their own understanding of healthy. Enjoy the recipe.

    34. 5 stars
      Thank you! It turned out great. I added some spinach in while the broccoli was cooking and added more pesto. This is a great recipe. Thank you!

    35. I’m wondering if I could serve this cold. I have been pre-cooking dinners in the a.m since it has been very warm.

      1. Totally! 99% of my dinners are made early in the day, especially in summer. If food tastes good for you cold – go for it, no rules.

    36. 5 stars
      This recipe is so quick, easy, and delicious! I made it twice in the past week. I leave out the sundried tomatoes because I don’t like them. Next time I may take the commenter’s suggestion of putting broccoli in first, but the cooked tomatoes and pasta water mix nicely together to make a sauce. Thanks for a great recipe!

    37. 5 stars
      Eating it right now. Very tasty, and easy. My husband hates sun-dried tomatos, but sometimes I just gotta.

    38. 5 stars
      nade this recipe just this evening and both my wife and I absolutely loved it. My one suggestion would be to sauté the broccoli first and add all the remaining ingredients prior to adding the tomatoes. Adding tomatoes to cooked food is all it takes to blister them and it keeps them from overcooking and becoming mushy. Otherwise I think the recipe is brilliant.

    39. I’m confused about the 1/4 cup of pesto. I see where the 2 tbsp are added but do not see in the directions where the additional 1/4 cup is added. Thank you!

          1. At my local farm market/small grocery store. I just went through many labels at each store until I found one. I live in Vancouver, BC and it’s our local company so unless you live where I live my store location won’t be helpful to you. Also check out health and organic stores and local farm markets. There are often Italian brands without preservatives. Italian deli and markets are a good place too.

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