Pasta with Roman Broccoli Sauce

March 16, 2022

If you’re looking for a way to sneak more greens into your meals this is the perfect meal for you. Last week I made Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce from Milk Street and it was delicious. It doesn’t take long to prepare, so it can easily be made during your busy week. This recipe was a freebie shared on Milk Street’s website, I made mine with the addition of chicken and the leftovers fed us for 3 days.

Native to the Mediterranean region, broccoli was cultivated in Italy in ancient Roman times and was introduced into England about 1720. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. And long before the modern cooks were serving broccoli both with and in rich sauces, the Romans were experimenting with the vegetable. You are going to love this Roman Broccoli sauce.

Pasta with Roman Broccoli Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 pound of broccoli, stems and florets seperated
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, finely grated and divided
  • 12 ounces Rigatoni or similar pasta
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated. Plus more for serving
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Lightly salt and pepper the sliced chicken thighs, toss with flour. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium/high heat. Once shimmering add in the chicken. Saute until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from heat,place on a plate and set aside
  2. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Cut broccoli stems crosswise into ½-inch rounds, save the leaves if any. Add the stems and leaves to the boiling water and cook until fully tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Cut the broccoli florets into 1- to 1½-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. Keep the water boiling.
  4. To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest and some of the reserved broccoli cooking water(start with ½ a cup and add more as needed). Puree until smooth and bright green, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir the rigatoni into the boiling broccoli water and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain.
  6. Return pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli puree, chicken, ¼ 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, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Top with additional cheese and serve.

There you have it! A weeknight meal, packed with veggies and flavor. It’s also very green, perfect for the month of March. Enjoy!

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