Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli

I consider myself a closeted Alfredo enthusiast.

Vertical image of a white bowl filled with fettuccine in a cream sauce with green vegetables, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Silly as it may sound, it’s the truth. I’ve always been partial to a robust red or even delicate pink sauce to dress my noodles. And if there’s one thing about my personality that hasn’t budged in over thirty-six years, it’s my stubbornness about sticking with what I like.

Scorpios, am I right?

When a dinner companion chooses classic chicken Alfredo, I can’t help but longingly stare at that silky white sauce. But I also can’t bring myself to veer from my regular order, so this scenario typically ends the same way each time, with me asking my most favorite dinnertime question:

“Splitsies?”

If the other diner has obliged (always a family member, friend, or partner – don’t worry, I avoid doing this with strangers), I end up blissfully devouring a bit of each, both red-sauced and Alfredo, truly the best of both worlds.

My heart – and my taste buds – were set on the acidic brightness of something tomato-infused, but lush and cheesy was a flavor profile that I secretly lusted after – though I continued to rarely order something coated in a sauce that fit these parameters for myself.

Vertical top-down image of a white dish filled with fettuccine in a creamy sauce with green vegetables garnished with red pepper flakes.

These shared Alfredo indulgences were undeniably delicious with grilled or breadcrumb-coated chicken, but I felt the restaurant versions that I eagerly snuck a few bites of were missing a boost. There was no oomph, no real vibrance.

The dishes felt one-note, and I was left craving something green.

Playing with comfort foods in my own kitchen, I love to experiment with adding new colors and textures. And just because you spoil yourself with something decadent doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in something healthy.

This is why you’ll never spy a quesadilla or pizza of mine that isn’t flaunting a pinch of spinach. A little green goes a long way towards feeling better about eating too much cheese.

And no, refraining from eating too much cheese to begin with just doesn’t work for me as a solution to this problem. Whoops, there goes my Scorpio again.

I don’t often feel the need to add a savory animal protein to a dish that’s already overflowing with richness. To me, Alfredo is just begging to be lifted with something green and crisp to balance it out.

On my first go-around in my home kitchen, I roasted hearty slabs of broccoli in the oven and painted them with a lemony garlic-parsley oil. It was heavenly, but I found that the broccoli alone checked every box in terms of what I was looking for.

Vertical image of a white bowl filled with fettuccine and green vegetables next to a copper pot on a red and white towel.

It ended up being easier yet just as satisfying – and with fewer dishes to wash in the end as well – to simply blanch the broccoli florets in the pasta pot. This method also keeps their bright, vegetal flavor front-and-center.

I debated the benefits of using a butter and cream base for the Alfredo sauce versus one that starts with a roux made with equal parts fat – usually butter – and flour. Both can end up just as velvety as what you’d get at an elegant Italian bistro, but I find the roux-based version can taste and feel a little chalky if it isn’t executed properly.

And although traditional Alfredo sauce doesn’t start with a roux, the result is guaranteed to thicken up, which can be a boon to home cooks.

With cream and butter, using dairy in the right ratio is key, but starchy pasta water or even egg yolks can encourage creaminess if things start to go in the wrong direction. with or without a roux to begin, both versions thicken as they cool But when it’s done right, the butter-and-cream-based sauce tends to stay silkier.

I may keep eating off others’ plates while dining out, but when I’m home with this broccoli Alfredo, this particular parmesan pasta fest is strictly BYO bowl.

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Horizontal image of fettuccine in a cream sauce with green vegetables in a white bowl next to a copper pot, bowl of grated cheese, and a red and white striped towel.

Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

When you’re craving comfort food, fresh broccoli and tender strands of pasta draped in velvety parmesan Alfredo sauce is a no-brainer.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, add the broccoli and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process. Drain after 5 minutes and then set aside.
  2. Add the fettuccine to the boiling water and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta and toss it with the olive oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Return the pasta pot to the stove over medium-low heat and add the butter. Once it begins to lightly foam and sizzle, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour in the milk and cream. Turn the heat up to medium-high and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the parmesan, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Cook for 1 more minute. Fold the fettuccine and broccoli into the sauce, splashing in a few tablespoons of reserved cooking water at a time so the sauce clings to the pasta and is thinned to the desired texture. Continue tossing the pasta and broccoli in the warm sauce over low heat until fully heated through. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
  5. Divide the pasta among plates and garnish with grated parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes if desired before serving.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: pasta, alfredo, sauce, broccoli

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Blanch the Broccoli

Rinse the broccoli, then cut the florets into bite-size pieces.

Horizontal image of shocking broccoli in a bowl of ice water.

The easiest way to do this is to hold the broccoli with the stem facing up on your cutting board. Use your chef’s knife to make downward cuts, separating the florets from the thick center stem, but leaving a little bit of stem intact. If you cut through the fluffy head, this will result in a big mess of florets and buds left behind on the cutting board.

Prepare a large mixing bowl of ice water filled about halfway, and select a pot that’s large enough to cook the pasta. Fill it with water, and add a few tablespoons of salt. Bring the water to a boil.

Add the broccoli and blanch until it’s bright green and crisp-tender, for about 2 minutes. A sharp knife should be able to easily slide into a stem, but you don’t want it to be overly soft. It should still have some crunch.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process and preserve its bright color. Wait about 5 minutes, then drain and set the broccoli aside.

Step 2 – Cook the Pasta

Add the fettuccine to the boiling water and cook until it’s al dente, according to the package instructions. This will take around 8 to 12 minutes.

Horizontal image of draining cooked fettuccine in a green colander.

Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water. It will help the Alfredo sauce adhere to the noodles and can also be used to thin the sauce.

Drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer it to a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

You can also cook the fettuccine in your electric pressure cooker to shave off a few minutes of cooking time.

Step 3 – Make the Sauce

Mince the garlic.

Horizontal image of pouring cream into a garlic and oil mixture in a pot.

Place the pasta pot back on the stove over medium-low heat and add the butter.

Once it begins to lightly foam and sizzle, add the garlic. Stir for 1 minute, and then pour in the milk and cream. You can substitute the milk and cream with 3 cups of half-and-half if that’s what you have available.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened slightly. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes.

Horizontal image of boiling cream in a pot on the stove.

The final consistency of the Alfredo sauce is up to personal preference, but you want it to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon to ensure that it will cling nicely to the pasta and vegetables. Keep in mind that it will also thicken up a bit when you add the parmesan.

Horizontal image of grating nutmeg over a cream sauce in a pot.

Stir in the parmesan, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg, and cook for 1 more minute while stirring to incorporate the cheese into the sauce.

You can use black pepper if you don’t have white pepper on hand. The white pepper just keeps the sauce a uniformly light color and provides a milder flavor.

Step 4 – Fold the Pasta and Broccoli into the Sauce and Serve

Add the fettuccine and broccoli back to the pot and fold them into the sauce, splashing in a few tablespoons at a time of the reserved cooking water so the sauce clings to the pasta, and is thinned to your desired consistency.

Horizontal image of fettuccine with cream sauce and broccoli stirred together with metal tongs in a pot.

Continue tossing the pasta and broccoli in the warm Alfredo sauce over low heat until they’re fully heated through. This will take several minutes.

Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

Divide the pasta among plates, and garnish with grated parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes if desired.

A Penne for Your Thoughts

Or a rigatoni. The pasta choice is up to you when you make this dish.

Horizontal image of fettuccine in a cream sauce with green vegetables in a white bowl next to a copper pot, bowl of grated cheese, and a red and white striped towel.

A thick, flat noodle like fettuccine or linguine works well to lap up the Alfredo, but tubular varieties also have that built-in tunnel that’s perfect for trapping sauce.

Crushed red pepper flakes may not be the norm, but we’re flying by the seat of our spaghetti here based on what tastes, feels, and looks good. And I find that the dynamic red specks give a welcome touch of color and a zesty burst of spice.

I occasionally add fresh herbs like licoricey basil or bright parsley for a clean flavor. How will you make this dish your own? Share your crafty ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

If this carby, veggie-packed Alfredo recipe has you all fired up, give these other dishes that combine broccoli and pasta a spin next:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lori Jo Hendrix on September 6, 2014. Last updated on February 2, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

37 thoughts on “Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli”

  1. A nice recipe and I would probably half the garlic in the recipe, but I like the chilli flakes instead. Carrots do make it healthier, perhaps I would use peas and then have the carrots on the side instead.

    I agree with real butter as that is what makes this dish creamy and delicious, in fact I would add a little more!

    Reply
    • Hi Bella,

      Thank you for liking my recipe! Yes, the garlic is something very personal. Put as much or little as you like. Chili flakes are so nice because they are spicy and mixed with the creamy and soft flavor, lovely combination.

      Peas are delicious in this recipe! Go ahead and add more butter, live it up!

      Thanks,

      Lori

      Reply
  2. This sounds like such a great comfort food dish. I particularly like having the carrots in the pasta, I think cooked carrots are delicious with their sweetness. I also found the nutmeg an interesting addition, I haven’t tried that with alfredo before.

    Real butter is amazing! I don’t like butter substitutes.

    Reply
    • Hi jellybean,

      Thank you for the compliment on my recipe. It is a great comfort food! Try it on the next rainy night, you’ll see. 😉 Nutmeg ads a nice depth to the flavor, let me know how you like it when you try it.

      Real butter is also healthier than substitutes.

      Regards,

      Lori

      Reply
  3. Alfredo sauce is my favorite pasta sauce. It’s so creamy and delicious. I like to add shrimp and some chili flakes to mine. I agree that eating it feels like a hug–it’s the best comfort food around!

    Reply
    • Hi meteredlines,

      I am happy to hear this is your favorite pasta sauce! Me too, shrimp is great in this.

      Here’s to hugs from Alfredo Sauce!

      Regards,

      Lori

      Reply
  4. This looks very light and delicious. Nothing ruins pasta faster than too much or too heavy of a sauce, but this doesn’t look like that.

    Reply
    • Hi js85,

      Thank you! It’s the olive oil added to the butter that makes it lighter, I also think it makes it tastier. I hope you try the recipe soon!

      Regards,

      Lori

      Reply
  5. Looks awesome…my stomach is acting funny, i ought to appease it by preparing this amazing dish…will dish out my verdict later but it sure looks delicious 🙂

    Reply
  6. I like how colorful the Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli looks after being dished and it looks so filling. The spice of the nutmeg must add a delicious warmth. Thank you, for adding real butter to the dish.
    My Mom is a pasta fanatic and the red pepper chili flakes are definitely added to all of our pasta dishes.

    Reply
    • Hi Kael,

      Thank you for the compliments! Feel free to add your own combo of colorful ingredients. Yes, the nutmeg does add a delicious warmth and depth, I love it, as do the chili flakes.

      Regards,

      Lori

      Reply
  7. Great! I so love to order alfredo pasta in restaurants but I don’t know how to make it by my own. I guess its time to save money! Thanks for the article that I could prepare this scrumptious whenever I want – that I could also share with my my family.

    Reply
    • Hi RissMe,

      Yes, time to try and make it at home! It is very easy and not time consuming at all. It is also very easy to tailor to your particular tastes as well as your families. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

      Regards,

      Lori

      Reply
  8. This looks yummy! I love pasta with alfredo sauce and this looks promising. I’ve never added chili flakes to my pasta dished before so that would be interesting to try. I’ll have to add this to my list of recipes to try out. I might add more broccoli, I can never have enough of it in any dish.

    That picture also looks delicious. I’m hungry just looking at it.

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      I am glad you like the recipe! Yes, try the chili flakes, it really does add some extra flavor and spice to the recipe. Add a little or a lot, depending on how much heat you like in your dishes.

      Yes, feel free to add more broccoli, I love it as well, love it in everything! This dish would be just fine with more broccoli or more garlic or more of anything you love.

      Regards,

      Lori Jo

      Reply
  9. Oh, how I love Alfredo sauce but am ashamed to admit I have never made it. I always order it when we go out for Italian but for some reason, I felt I wouldn’t be able to make it. Ridiculous, I know!!

    Now I have no excuse with this yummy recipe. We do have pasta once a week in our home, so this will be on the menu this week,for sure 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi blueeyes,

      Oh you have to make it at home, it’s so easy! And the fun thing is you can taylor it to your particular taste and have the pleasure of serving it to others and seeing the satisfaction on their faces as they eat this famous comfort food.

      Let me know how it turns out when you make it!

      Regards,

      Lori Jo

      Reply
  10. Looks absolutely delicious! This recipe looks like a spring garden on a plate. I love it when food both tastes good and looks good.
    Also, for some odd reason Penne is my go to choice too when I am cooking pasta. I don’t know if the shape of the pasta affects the taste, maybe it is just psychological 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi lemoncamelia,

      Yes I agree, presentation is important with food as well as texture and flavor. Various vegetables can be added to this dish so feel free to make it as colorful as you wish!

      My go to pasta also is Penne, I think because it is easy to eat, I like the texture and it fills with sauce inside. What type of pasta you use definitely has an overall effect on the outcome of the flavor and texture of the dish, it’s not psychological unless you just like the visual shape of it perhaps.

      Regards,

      Lori Jo

      Reply
    • Hi missbishi,

      Oh believe me it is substantial. If you are hungry and looking for something filling and satisfying this is it and it’s vegetarian. So many people think that vegetarian food is not filling or satisfying but that is definitely not the case. Add whatever vegetables you like and it is a guaranteed hit at any party, vegetarian or not. 😉

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  11. This actually is a call-back to the traditional pastas in Italy. Did you know that the traditional pastas aren’t made with tomato sauce variations? Since tomatoes are a new world fruit, they didn’t make their way to Italy until the 1600’s. Pastas before then were typically made with sauces like these or with oil-based sauces.

    Reply
    • Hi TommyVercetti,

      It’s hard to believe isn’t it since so many of the pasta dishes or Italian dishes served in the USA are tomato based. Even pizza! BTW, Alfredo sauce on pizza in place of tomato sauce is delicious, especially with broccoli. I actually prefer the oil based sauces such as puttanesca etc. vs. the tomato, although those are still delicious.

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  12. lol I don’t know about everyone speaking to the ‘light’ nature of this dish. It’s an Alfredo dish. It’s tough to call that ‘light’. I guess it not having cream makes it lighter? I would make the veggie mix a tad more eclectic. Throw some zucchini/bok choy/snap peas.

    Reply
  13. Hi JoanMcWench,

    True! Alfredo is rather filling, well very filling actually but I think they meant light because it had no meat or because it can be made even heavier. You can add more cream or butter if you wish or more cheese. Ooh, your vegetable choices sound divine. Especially the snap peas. Yum!

    Regards,

    Lori H.

    Reply
  14. It’s almost the end of July, and my thoughts always turn to Fall, and thicker soups and comfort foods. This recipe sounds perfect for now, as well as when the weather cools off. I love the fresh ingredients, and that the recipe is so flexible. I can almost taste this already, and I can tell it will go over well in this house.

    Reply
  15. It’s one of my favorite things, and it’s been kind of a specialty of all the things I cook. I make it a number of different ways. My kids love it. One likes it with chicken, one with broccoli, and one likes just the sauce and noodles.

    It can also be a good side dish at times. If you’re serving something kind of plain, a spoonful of this dish will certainly make the plate into a better meal.

    Reply
  16. Hi Zyni,

    I am glad you love Alfredo and making it in various ways is part of the fun. I am thinking of doing another past recipe with broccoli and garlic and no cream or butter. It is a little simpler and with less ingredients but very delicious.

    In Italy pasta is never considered a side dish if you care about being traditional. You actually eat the salad after the pasta dish if you even have a second dish of something, as pasta is very filling.

    Reply
  17. I love this recipe because it is pretty simple to throw together and a good way to incorporate veggies for picky eaters. I have recently used Reggiatano too and it was delicious! I used in a spinach and cheese dip and I was very impressed by how fresh it was. I also love that you can use most any variation of noodle for this and it will still go together. Yum!

    Reply
    • Hi CharlotteMartin,

      Thank you! Oh I love spinach and cheese dip, I bet that was delicious. I have become very fond of Reggianito cheese since living in Argentina. I have not found it here in Mexico yet. I too use various noodles with this, yummy! I even had it the other day with no vegetables and no flat leaf parsley for a quick lunch and it was still delicious and so fast to make.

      Reply
  18. Hmmm…definitely not convinced by the carrot, I have to say. The broccoli and the creamy sauce sounds great, but I look at those carrots and just think, NOPE! I would leave out the carrots and add chicken.

    Reply
    • Hi ukfoodiegirl,

      That sounds perfectly fine to me! Let us know how your version tuns out. 🙂 I like the carrots because they are sweet and I love sweet mixed with salty.

      Reply
  19. This looks delicious. I can’t wait try it. It contains some of my favorite vegetables. Alfredo is always a hit with my family so I’m sure this will go over well.

    Reply
    • Hi nytegeek,

      Thank you! Oh yes, I am sure it will and the smell of garlic cooking in the oil wafting through the house always stimulates the appetites so when finally on the table it’s a real treat! And so comforting and filling.

      Let us know when you try it and what your family thinks!

      Reply
  20. Pasta dishes always look better if you can include two different-colored vegetables, as you have here. The way our brains work, the attractive appearance does make the dish taste better. I like using vegetables with alfredo sauce because if you add meat, the dish tends to get a bit heavy.

    Reply

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