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Rigatoni with Roman Broccoli Sauce

4 Servings

35 minutes

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Romans use the leaves that grow around heads of broccoli to make a flavorful sauce for pasta. In the U.S., most of the leaves are stripped off before broccoli is sold. Our recipe instead uses the stems, which are equally flavorful and produce a silky sauce. Baby spinach retains the color of the original recipe.




Don’t undercook the broccoli stems. We're accustomed to cooking vegetables until crisp-tender, but the stems here should be cooked until fully tender.

35 minutes


  • 1

    pound broccoli, stems and florets separated

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper


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Stephanie R.
June 23, 2023
Excellent dish
Creamy, healthy, and delicious. An easy way to trick my kids into eating iron-rich foods. What's not to like?
Lizzie E.
May 28, 2023
Not too heavy but still hearty. Perfect for a weeknight
Melissa A.
May 8, 2023
and yum. Added a few toasted pine nuts and a little extra lemon zest. Fantastic.
Pamela B.
April 23, 2023
Creamy, garlicy, delicious
Made per the recipe and it was fantastic. The rigatoni grabbed the sauce and every bite was incredible. And, the left overs were equally outstanding.
Mary A.
January 31, 2023
Didn’t quite follow the recipe
I used a “bunch” of broccoli, a box of baby lettuce, used a food processor instead of a blender, added the cheese to the sauce in the blender, then forgot and put the florets in the food processor too (without the cold water rinse). I used whole wheat rigatoni. I forgot to add the water - I might have used more cheese. Anyway, after all that, it was STILL excellent.
Michael F.

Again, so salty. Every Milk Street recipe is like a salt lick. Just don't add any. There is more than enough in the cheese.

Carmine G.

The recipe uses kosher salt, so if you used an equal volume of table salt, you put too much salt in.

Anne W.

I thought this recipe was the bomb. Incredibly tasty. Vibrant. And rich without being rich. Next time I will top with toasted walnut pieces. (Salted the water initially as instructed and added the salt to blender, but none beyond that. I use Kosher...)

Christine D.

Wow is this ever tasty. I did have to sub kalamata olives for the capers and kale for spinach - but from a non-pasta lover with an abundance of broccoli - this was AMAZING!

Corinne H.

Does anyone know if this can be frozen? I have so much spinach and broccoli right now.

April D.

Corinne - great question! I would recommend making the spinach and broccoli sauce, then freezing the sauce in portions (you can use an ice cube tray or silicone molds). That'll be easier to thaw and cook with than making the entire pasta dish, as frozen and thawed pasta can easily end up mushy. I would also encourage you to only add as much cooking water as absolutely necessary to get a creamy mixture, but not more than that. You can always thin with more water once thawed.
- The Milk Street Team

Jay F D.

This recipe's instructions are confusing, as to what water you save ("reserve") and what water you add to the sauce. How can you cook the pasta in a half cup of water? Is there a second pot of boiling water to cook the pasta in? What am I missing? Any suggestions, you folks who have succeeded in cooking this (or the MilkStreet folks)? Thanks!

Lynn C.

Hi Jay -

The recipe starts out with 4 quarts of water in which you first cook the broccoli stems and spinach. After cooking those you reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water that, in Step 3, gets added to the blender to make the sauce. The remaining water (which is just under 4 quarts at this point), is then used to cook the broccoli florets and then the pasta. After the pasta cooks you reserve an additional 1/2 cup of the cooking water in order to adjust the texture of the sauce in 1/4 cup increments. We hope that clears it up!

The Milk Street Team

Diane F.

Would be really great if all the recipes were in aa more printer friendly format - like two pages instead of three half full ones. So much less waste of paper and storage space in my recipe file

Lynn C.

Hi Diane -

We are constantly working on the website and making changes to improve the customer experience. We will pass along your suggestions to our digital content team for future updates. Thank you!

The Milk Street Team

christine d.

This sauce was fun! I wish I had increased the capers more (I increased everything to accommodate the whole pound of rigatoni). The hit of lemon at the end made it perfect.

Wendy P.

We loved this recipe too! I do think the red pepper was a bit much. I might use only half of what it calls for next time. I don't like capers so I just didn't include them. I cannot imagine what they'd add to the results. Also, the fresh spinach looked terrible at the store today, and since I had a bag of frozen chopped spinach, I guessed at how much 1 1/2 cup packed fresh spinach would reduce to and used a bit less than 1 cup of frozen spinach (thawed by the time I needed it). Seemed to work just fine! The recipe says it serves 4. 2 of us ate it tonight (with seconds) along with a grilled chicken thigh. I have enough leftover to feed 4 more! (Yes, I cooked 12 oz of pasta, not a whole pound as mentioned by one reviewer.) I too wish the "print" formatting would consolidate the space better. On this recipe, a half page is used up with the title and photo, both of which I like but not with tons of wasted white space around it. I want my recipes on one page. I know, some just need two pages. But certainly not 3 or more!) I will make this again.