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 favourite pasta bake!
This pasta bake is comfort food at it's best, creamy cheesy pasta with broccoli! So yes, there is broccoli but trust me, even your broccoli hating kids will love this one!
And that topping? It's crispy, crunchy and cheesy! There is something really satisfying about breaking into that crunchy topping and finding that lovely creamy, cheesy pasta.
The sauce is delicious, it's perfectly cheesy and garlicky with a hint of thyme. The sharp cheddar is perfect with the broccoli which hasn't turned to mush by the way! Want to find out why? Read on!
Why This Recipe Works
- That creamy, cheesy sauce! It has just the right amount of sharp cheddar cheese with a hint of mustard, thyme and garlic.
- Perfectly cooked pasta, no mushy pasta bakes here! And just the right amount of sauce.
- Crisp broccoli, perfectly cooked and not mushy.
- This is a great family dinner, perfect for getting the kids to eat broccoli.
What You'll Need
- Pasta - I use rigatoni but penne or fusilli works really well too. You can use whole grain pasta if you want, you'll need to increase the cooking time though.
- Broccoli - A whole medium head of broccoli goes into this pasta bake.
- Cheese - Sharp or Mature Cheddar and vegetarian parmesan cheese are great in this bake. You can use other cheese if you want gruyere is really good too.
- For the sauce - Butter - I use salted butter for the sauce, you can use unsalted if you prefer. You'll also need flour, an onion, whole grain mustard, and thyme.
- Panko Breadcrumbs - For an extra crunchy topping I use a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, cheddar cheese, and veggie parmesan.
How To Make Broccoli Pasta Bake
- Make the sauce - melt the butter in a saucepan, add the chopped onion and cook over low heat until the onion is soft.
- Add the flour to the onion and stir until you have a smooth paste.
- Next using a whisk, start slowly pouring in the milk, whisking all the time.
- Once you have a smooth sauce add the mustard, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Give the sauce a good whisk then let it bubble for a minute or two.
- Take the sauce off the heat then stir in the cheddar and parmesan. Set the sauce aside until your ready to add it to the pasta.
- Cook the pasta, about 5 minutes before the end of cooking the pasta drop the broccoli into the pasta and cook for about 5 minutes. Then drain the pasta and broccoli and tip it into a large casserole dish.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and gently mix it all together.
- In a small bowl mix together the breadcrumbs and remaining cheddar and parmesan then sprinkle it over the pasta. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Tip For Making The Best Broccoli Pasta Bake
- For a lovely lump-free and smooth sauce, add the milk in slowly and use a balloon whisk to stir it in.
- Turn the heat off when you add the cheese to the sauce, you risk it splitting if you keep cooking that sauce with all that cheese.
- Add about 2 -3 tablespoons of the pasta water to your sauce. This will help the sauce to stick to the pasta.
- Don't overcook the pasta. It should be just al dente. You don't want it to turn to mush!
- Briefly cook the broccoli with the pasta, you don't want to overcook the broccoli or it will turn to mush when it bakes.
- For a truly crispy topping finish the dish by popping it under the grill for about 5 minutes.
Can I make this ahead? 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 it.
Can I freeze this pasta bake? Technically you can freeze this but I don't recommend that you do. The sauce could very easily split when you thaw it and then reheat it.
Can I reheat this? Yes, you can reheat this. It reheats well, so if you do 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 just one or two days.
Need More Tasty Comfort Food?
- Vegetarian Toad in the Hole
- Creamy Kale & Mushroom Pasta Bake
- Spiced Pear Crumble
- Satay Sweet Potato Curry
Have you made this Broccoli Pasta Bake Recipe? Rate it and leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!
Broccoli Pasta Bake
- 350 g pasta, penne or rigatoni (3 ½ cups)
- 1 medium head of broccoli cut into florets and washed
- 1 medium onion finely sliced
- 40 g butter (3 tbsp)
- 40 g plain flour (all-purpose flour ⅓ of a cup)
- 1 pint of semi-skimmed milk
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 100 g mature/sharp cheddar (1 cup) grated and divided into 70g and 30g portions
- 50 g vegetarian parmesan cheese (½ a cup) finely grated and divided into 30g and 2og portions + more for serving
- 25 g panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley optional
- Preheat the oven to 190C/374F.
Make The Sauce
- Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and cook over a low heat until the onion is soft, about 20 minutes should do the trick.
- Add the flour to the onion and stir well, until you have a smooth paste.Switch from using a wooden spoon to a whisk then start adding the milk slowly, whisking continuously.Once all the milk has been added leave the sauce to simmer for a minute or two then whisk in 1 tbsp of wholegrain mustard, 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1 tbsp of thyme leaves. Simmer again for a few minutes, the sauce should now be silky smooth.Whisk in 2-3 tbsp of water from the cooking pasta.
- Turn off the heat then add 70g of grated cheddar and 30g of finely grated parmesan. Stir well and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside until you're ready to use it.
Cook The Pasta
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions minus 5 minutes.About 5 minutes before it is due to be drained add the broccoli florets and cook them both together for about 5 minutes.Drain the pasta and broccoli then tip it all into a large casserole dish.
Make The Pasta Bake
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and gently mix it all together.In a small bowl mix together the panko breadcrumbs and the remaining cheddar and parmesan.Sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumb mixture over the pasta then cover the dish loosely with kitchen foil. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the foil then transfer the dish to under the grill and cook for about 10 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crispy and the cheese has melted.Leave it to cool slightly then serve. If you want you can sprinkle some finely chopped parsley over the finished dish.
- Pasta - I use rigatoni, rigatoni or fusilli to make this. Any hollow pasta or pasta with ridges works well. The sauce will fill up the hollows and stick to the ridges.
- Broccoli - Try and cut the broccoli into similar sized florets. I cut them into medium-sized florets as I don't want the broccoli to be too mushy. I always make this with fresh broccoli but you could use frozen broccoli if you want. Just thaw the broccoli first and dry it with kitchen paper so it's not adding too much water to the pasta bake.
- Cheese - A good mature cheddar is perfect in this but you could use gruyere if you prefer. I have made this with a lower fat cheese with good results.
- Milk - I use semi-skimmed milk for this sauce, you can use full-fat milk if you prefer.
- Freezing/Storing/Reheating - I don't recommend freezing this dish due to the risk of the sauce splitting. Any leftovers though can be reheated in the oven or microwave. You can store leftovers in the fridge for a day or two.
- Nutritional Information - is approximate and is calculated using an online nutrition tool. It is based on one serving.
- Measurements - I weigh all my ingredients using an electric scale, all measurements are metric. Cup measurements are approximate.