This comforting Pasta Bake with Cheese, Broccoli, and White Sauce will soon turn into a family favorite! Everyone loves the creamy cheesy sauce, perfectly cooked broccoli, and crunchy topping with a hint of lemon to brighten the dish.
If you like baked pasta you will also like: Creamy Sausage Baked Ziti “White Baked Ziti”, Stuffed Lumaconi Pasta Recipe with Ricotta and Sausage, or Baked Ham Cheese Pasta Bechamel Sauce. Try these broccoli pasta recipes: Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta in Cream Sauce and Easy Orecchiette with Broccoli!
Why I love this meal!
When I need a comforting meal to bring everyone to the table I often refer to this recipe. It is great for a weeknight meal, or a Sunday dinner.
You can assemble it a day in advance and bake and serve the next day. It is an all around great baked pasta meal!
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Lemon zest
- Freshly grated parmigiano cheese
- Olive oil
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
- Medium shell pasta
- Butter, plus more for the pan
- Fresh thyme leaves
- All-purpose flour
- Whole milk, at room temperature
- Heavy cream, at room temperature
- Mild provolone cheese
- Mozarella cheese
- Broccoli florets
See recipe card for quantities.
You will love the crunchy topping made from bread crumbs, olive oil, parmigiano cheese, and lemon zest. It adds texture and unique flavor to this cheesy pasta dish. It also adds a a sealing layer so the pasta bake stays moist and cheesy without drying out the top layer of the pasta.
What Bread Crumbs are Best?
I love the texture and flakiness of the Panko break crumb variety. Panko has a light, airy, and delicate texture that helps it crisp as it cooks. The texture of panko makes it especially wonderful for forming crunchy toppings because it absorbs less oil than breadcrumbs, keeping food more crisp and crunchy. If you don't have Panko bread crumbs you can substitute them for regular Italian breadcrumbs.
Do I need the Topping?
The crunchy toppings levels this dish up a notch from regular baked pasta, but you can leave it off. You will want to add a thin layer or extra cheese to form a crust on the top. If you do not add any topping at all the pasta will dry out on the top layer.
- For a clump-free and smooth white sauce, add the milk in slowly and use a balloon whisk to stir it in.
- Turn the heat to low when you add the cheese to the sauce so the cheese doesn't stick to the pan as it melts
- Add pasta water to your sauce. This will help incorporate the sauce to the pasta.
- Don't overcook the pasta. It should be just al dente. You don't want it to turn to mush when it bakes in the oven!
- Make sure broccoli is in small pieces. Since you aren't cooking the broccoli ahead of time, you want the florets fairly small so they cook until tender.
We love this delicious and comforting pasta just as it is! If you want to pack more protein or veggies here are some options for you:
- Add some cooked ham
- Add cauliflower instead of broccoli
- Try sprinkling the top with cooked and crispy bacon
Can I add chicken to this creamy broccoli and cheese pasta?
Yes! You can absolutely add cooked chicken to this recipe before baking the final dish. In Italy we do not typically serve chicken mixed in with pasta, however, if you love chicken in this broccoli and cheese pasta bake you can add it!
Creamy, cheesy and really tasty this Broccoli Pasta Bake is great for an easy weeknight dinner. With a crunchy cheesy topping, this will be your new favorite pasta bake!
Reasons You Will Love this Pasta Bake
- The incredible smooth and cheesy sauce! It has just the right amount of provolone cheese with a hint of thyme and onion.
- Perfectly cooked pasta, no mushy pasta bakes here! And just the right amount of sauce.
- The crisp broccoli that is perfectly cooked and not mushy.
- Delicious crispy topping with a hint of lemon to freshen and lighten your taste buds.
- Everyone will love this dinner. Even the kids who think they don't like broccoli.
Can I make this Ahead of Time?
Yes, you can make the whole thing a day in advance. Keep it covered in the fridge and bake it until you are ready to serve it!
Can I Freeze Baked Pasta?
Technically you can freeze this pasta.I don't recommend that you do it is one of those meals that tasted better fresh. If you decide to freeze it wait until it cools put it in a freezer air tight container and freeze for up to one month. Let it thaw in the fridge and then reheat it in the microwave or in an oven safe dish in the oven at 350 F for about 25 minutes until is heated all the way through.
How do I Reheat Baked Pasta?
This pasta bake is great as leftovers and it reheats well. If you have any leftovers you can reheat them in the microwave or in the oven until it is piping hot. Any leftovers should be kept in the fridge and should be kept for one or two days.
From my Cucina (kitchen) to your table!
Made with Amore, Elena
More Delicious Recipes for YOU
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You will love this Creamy Cheesy Baked Pasta with Broccoli as a much as we do! Leave a comment and a star rating to let me know. I can't wait to hear from you!
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- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest, more for garnish
- ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
- 1 pound medium shell pasta
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional for the pasta water
- ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups whole milk, at room temperature
- 2 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1 cup grated mild provolone cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
- 3 cups broccoli florets, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Mix together the bread crumbs, lemon zest, parmigiano, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with the salt and set aside.
- For the pasta: Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 7 minutes, or 4 minutes under the recommended cooking time (the pasta will be firm since it will continue to cook in the oven), then reserve ¼ cup pasta water and drain. Set aside.
- Place a medium oven and stove top safe dish (braiser) over medium heat*. Heat butter in pan let it brown a little. Add the chopped onion and cook over a low heat until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add the flour to the onion and stir well, until you have a smooth paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then add the cream and thyme seasoning, keep whisking. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer, whisking often. Turn heat to low/simmer and whisk in the provolone and mozzarella until melted and smooth. Season with salt.
- Fold in the blanched pasta, reserved pasta water and broccoli florets. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and extra lemon zest. Serve warm. Mangia!
* you can also cook in a regular sauté pan and transfer to an oven safe dish before baking in the oven.
- Prep Time: 15 min
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Savory
- Method: Italian
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: baked pasta, broccoli, butter, cream, main dish, side dish, Italian recipe, pasta bake, provolone, white sauce,