Simple, Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti

July 12, 2018
25 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe is made with humble pantry staples like spaghetti, broccoli, and lemon, and it's an unusual marriage between Italian and Korean flavors. Unlike traditional cream pasta, this dish is served in a spicy, soul-warming broth whose base is an unlikely candidate: milk. —James Park

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: I'm a Chef—but Broccoli Spaghetti Was All My Family Wanted From Me. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces dried pasta, like spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, half sliced and half crushed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. When butter is melt, add sliced and crushed garlic and red pepper flakes until they are fragrant. Stir occasionally to make sure garlic and red pepper flakes don't get burnt.
  2. Once they are fragrant, add sliced onion and broccoli florets. Season them with salt and pepper. Toss everything until onions are translucent and florets are tender but still firm, for 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest at the end and quickly toss everything again until it's fragrant.
  3. Add whole milk to the pot with salt and garlic powder and let it simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta, occasionally stirring, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  5. Using tongs, add pasta to milk broth. Cook everything over high heat and bring everything together with pasta water and Parmesan for a minute, or until the pasta is cooked when you taste, "al dente" if you can.
  6. Serve pasta with freshly cracked black pepper and more grated Parmesan cheese.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Gissela Casco-Alongi
    Gissela Casco-Alongi
  • linzarella
  • AngieGH
  • Austin Burges
    Austin Burges
  • Claudine Lalli Eckhart
    Claudine Lalli Eckhart

39 Reviews

Linda D. July 21, 2023
Made this again last night, James, exactly as written. Absolutely delicious! Thank you!
BunnyPenny March 15, 2022
This story and recipe had my mouth watering, I read the story before bed and had to wait until dinner the next day to try this.
I am in love, the garlic and red pepper base really kicks this dish off right.
I wasn’t sure if my partner would like the milk broth or not, so I did less milk and a tempered egg to make it more of a sauce than a broth. The milk sauce ended up taking in a nuttiness that took me by surprise, my partner asked if I was cooking with peanut butter. We ate the entire pan, it was so good!
Thank you for sharing!
Seth M. April 28, 2021
So yummy and satisfying. I happened to have everything at home (a rare happening) except for the milk. Made it with coconut milk instead, and added some carrots like someone else suggested. The onion was a purple one so it was a colorful dish. I’ll definitely be making this again.
Linda D. August 14, 2020
Like others, I appreciated how simply and quickly this savory dish came together. Next time, more broccoli, milk, and lemon zest for us. I will also try linguine to see if the flatter noodle makes a difference. Thanks, James.
Lieblings June 8, 2020
I love how quick and easy this came together. I used broccolini, fresh peas and gochugaru pepper. The milk makes it a bit brothy and soup-like in...a good way. I loved drinking it straight from the bowl like ramen. It was wholesome without being heavy. I will be making again.
Gissela C. April 25, 2020
My whole family loved this recipe, I didn't have red pepper flakes, instead i had fresh red pepper... what a great addition. I also tried a batch with carrots.. gave it an extra sweetness to it. Super Yummy!
LL April 21, 2020
This was really delicious and quick to make. Definitely will make it again.
lizinchi March 20, 2020
Really tasty. Season liberally; there’s not a lot going on so if you find it bland it probably just needs more— more salt, pepper, lemon zest, parm, etc
lizinchi March 20, 2020
Really tasty. I
janet C. March 17, 2020
This story brought tears to my eyes. As a fellow Korean, living in North American, much of this story resonated with me. Thank you so much for sharing it and the recipe.
linzarella January 25, 2020
I was really excited to try this but it came out very disappointing. I wonder if I did something wrong? It was bland and thin and boring.
Kar1n060870! July 27, 2019
This was sooo good. I baked Brocollini florets in the oven in sauteed garlic and olive oil S&P at 425 degrees for 15 minutes till the edges were crispy and I used mini farfalle (kid friendly). I used a little less milk and about the same pasta water and a teaspoon of lemon juice rather than zest, The chili flakes, garlic powder,milk and fresh parmesan makes this dish so tasty. Better than I expected. Thanks, James!
AngieGH March 19, 2019
I loved your story and how you came to make this dish.
I look forward to trying out the recipe :)
Austin B. September 17, 2018
Reminds me of shrimp scampi, minus the shrimp. Not bad, wouldn't really make again though.
Claudine L. September 8, 2018
This really touched me! We always cook pasta with a little bit of broccoli, some cauliflower and one peeled, diced potato like my dad did. We drain most of the water and add olive oil with lots of sautéed garlic and Parmesan cheese and black pepper. It soothes us when we return from a trip or a stressful situation.
Marcy September 7, 2018
Your story touched my heart. Thank you for writing it. I look forward to trying this recipe!
Zozo September 5, 2018
Ahaha this is the best story! So true, I think I know what I'll cook for my parents next time they fly over!
James P. September 5, 2018
Hi Zozo! Hope you give this a try! Super simple, but it hits all the spots :)
MaryDouglas September 3, 2018
I loved your story! Perhaps you could be a chef AND author!
James P. September 5, 2018
Hi Mary! Thank you so much! I am no where to be an author, but thank you for your kind words :)
Nancy September 5, 2018
I agree. I think it would make a great youngest reader book: your story of finding yourself, your family’s visit, the recipe, written for children about your good culture and self discovery, and an easy recipe to make with some adult help.
The soup is nutritious too.
Ask around. Best wishes!
Nancy September 5, 2018
Food culture. Food. Food. Sorry about that auto fill. But good food culture definitely.
LULULAND August 29, 2018
Just made this. I thought the sauce was too runny, so I thickened it up with corn starch. I would use a little less pepper flakes, but the flavor was good with the lemon, it picked up the dish!
James P. September 5, 2018
Ah! Those pepper flakes were meant to add that signature kick, found in Korean stews, but totally customizable :) I am glad you enjoyed it! The "sauce" is almost like a broth, so it's okay if it's runny.
Victoria V. August 28, 2018
Hi, what does "4 garlic" mean? Is that 4 cloves?
Eric K. August 28, 2018
Yup, 4 cloves of garlic. I've updated the recipe to reflect that; thanks for asking!