Who doesn’t love a baked pasta dish? Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella is super cheesy and delicious, but also filled with two whole heads of broccoli! Broccoli haters just might be converted!!
It’s probably no secret that the Thomas-Ewing household loves to eat carbs, more specifically, pasta. There is just nothing easier to make, probably nothing as budget friendly, and surely no dish as well liked as a baked cheese-filled pasta dish. If we are looking for comfort food, then in most cases, pasta is what’s on the menu.
Sunday night dinners are 99% of the time a big bowl of pasta. We are not complete heathens, but there’s just something really comforting and casual about the three of us sitting on the floor in the living room with our individual bowls of pasta, and our favourite Netflix show. The show can vary, depending on whatever the three of us can agree on or are hooked on at the time. The pasta dish can vary too; it can be our go-to spaghetti, or something a little more thought out and planned, like this Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella. The one thing that is mostly constant is the sitting on the floor on a Sunday night. (The couch was off limits to food until just recently, because I have a fear of spillage. I can have a full-on anxiety attack if there’s a risk of food being spilled or dropped onto furniture, but I’m trying to work past it.)
It’s a shame really that we sat on the floor with this dish. Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella deserves the respect of sitting at a table, but in our home, food is meant to be loved and meant to be enjoyed – it’s not just for nourishment. And, as a small family of three, we are most comfortable and most relaxed when we get watch a movie or a show, share a great dinner, while wearing out pajamas, and lounging on the living room floor. There’s no shame in that.
Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella might just be my new favourite pasta. Actually, that’s a lie. All pasta is my favourite pasta. But, in terms of taste, this one is certainly high up on my top ten list. That broccoli pesto was one of the best I’ve tried. And, believe me, Dear Reader, I’m no stranger to a good pesto.
If pesto is your thing – and why shouldn’t it be? – you can find several on my blog. We love pesto because it’s easy to make, better than store-bought, can be stored for a while in the fridge, and makes meal time a breeze in most cases.
The most popular of my pesto recipes is, without a doubt, my Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. It’s one of my favourites too, but so is my Kale and Walnut Pesto, my Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Pesto, my Scallion and Basil Pesto, and finally, my Mediterranean Vegetable Pesto. I dare you to try them all! That’s over a month of Sunday night pasta dinner recipes!!
Now, Dear Reader, if you have picky eaters in your family, Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella just might be a good way to get some healthy broccoli into the mouths of those picky eaters. In our home, broccoli is like water. It’s a constant in our fridge – except for those times (much to John.e’s dismay) that we eat it all up and the depression sets in. John.e loves broccoli like no one I’ve ever known. McKenna and I love it too, but not to the point where we crave it. When broccoli is on the menu, there’s one very, very happy John.e!
If you want to make this recipe a more health-conscious recipe, you can do one of these two things – or both, if you choose! You can certainly substitute the regular pasta with a whole wheat or protein plus pasta. You can even use gluten free pasta if you want. You can also reduce or eliminate the cheese completely.
I would not recommend skipping the parmesan cheese when making the broccoli pesto, but the extra mozzarella cheese can be skipped completely. If you do so, cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil during the baking process to prevent the pasta from burning. Or, just toss your cooked pasta with the pesto and skip the baking process completely. Just toss the room-temperature pesto with hot pasta and a few tablespoons of the hot pasta water. Lastly, you can also substitute the parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast if you’re looking for a vegan version of the pesto. There’s lots of choices and ways to personalize this Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella.
If you’re looking for a great tasting pasta dish that the whole family will love, then here it is! Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella is one pasta dish I’ll be making over and over again for my two vegetarians!
Baked Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Mozzarella
- 6 cups broccoli florets, about 2 heads of broccoli
- 900 grams penne pasta, par-cooked and cooled
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, optional
Add the broccoli florets to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook the broccoli on a low boil for 5 minutes. Do not overcook the broccoli.
Remove the broccoli from the water and transfer to a food processor.
In the meantime, add the penne pasta to the leftover broccoli water and boil until pasta is almost fully cooked.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a casserole dish by greasing it with a little olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
Add the garlic, parmesan, and olive oil to the food processor. Pulse until smooth and creamy.
When the pasta is cooked, drain the water and return the cooked pasta back to the pot.
Add the broccoli pesto, salt, black pepper, dried chili flakes, and toss to coat.
Spoon half of the pasta mixture into the casserole dish. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese.
Spoon the rest of the pasta onto the first layer of cheese and top with the remaining mozzarella.
Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and bubbling.
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