Our ultra creamy, extra cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Pasta is everyone’s favorite indulgent cold weather soup morphed into a luscious mac and cheese everyone will swoon over.
Broccoli Cheddar Pasta
Last week, the temperatures dropped, the first few orange and brown-hued leaves of fall fell to the ground and I found myself in a deep hunger battle between an indulgent mac and cheese and my favorite indulgent soup – broccoli cheddar.
And Broccoli Cheddar Pasta was born.
This isn’t an uncommon predicament I find myself in since broccoli cheddar soup and mac and cheese happen to be two of my most beloved guilty pleasures. When you have picky children and a baby who share your love of cheesy pastas, they seem to pop up more often than they probably should.
While I’m sure the babe would like to slurp up a bowl of soup, something tells me the contents on the spoon would likely end up all over the floor versus in his mouth. With that in mind, I thought if I could condense the soup down to a sauce while retaining basically all the same ingredients and flavors, and pair it with some noodles, I’d have a winning combination none of my children could say no to.
If the constant shoveling of food into mouths wasn’t confirmation enough, the emphatic “mmmmmmm mmmm,” incessantly coming out of Teddy’s mouth with each bite really solidified my initial thoughts. And obviously I was smitten too.
Ingredients in Broccoli Cheddar Pasta
Literally, if I had to describe this broccoli cheddar pasta, I’d say it tastes identical to broccoli cheddar soup in mac and cheese form. It’s not overly cheesy in the cheese-pull sense, since it’s irresistibly creamy but it has a prominent sharp cheddar flavor you can’t miss.
Like the Panera version, it’s full of soft broccoli, shredded carrots and plenty of chopped onion. The soup base is a mix of low-sodium chicken stock and velvety heavy cream – which in my opinion makes the perfect light but still indulgent cream sauce. A hint of nutmeg is the underlying flavor that adds just a little bit of warmth to the soup without completely changing the flavor profile.
Let’s Make Broccoli Cheddar Pasta
Cook veggies. To start we sauté the onion and carrots in a little bit of butter and once they’re somewhat softened. Next whisk in flour and toast for a minute until that raw flour taste cooks out.
Add liquid. Once the flour has cooked, we whisk in chicken broth, cream and nutmeg. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until it thickens.
Cook the broccoli and pasta. Since the broccoli cheddar component is a sauce, it doesn’t simmer for a long period of time on the stove, so the broccoli actually needs to be cooked ahead of time. So what I do is throw it in with the pasta when the noodles are about six minutes shy of cooked and then drain it all together before tossing it with the thickened sauce. If you like your broccoli really soft (I do sometimes) throw the broccoli in at the same time as the pasta.
Add the cheese. After thee sauce has thickened, remove the whole pot comes from the heat and add the shredded cheddar cheese. Stir unit it’s melted.
Toss. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce and stir until combined. Season to your taste with plenty of salt and pepper.
Serve! I skip the serving dish and scoop the creamy broccoli cheddar mac and cheese into bowls alongside crusty ciabatta or sourdough rolls.
- For extra creaminess add in 4 ounces of cream cheese
- Swap other short pastas such a penne, large shells or campanelle
- To up the healthiness, reduce the pasta by 1/4 pound and double the carrots and broccoli.
- Swap out half and half for heavy cream
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t add the pasta to the boiling water until your sauce has thickened. You don’t want to be waiting on the sauce to thicken if the pasta is done.
- The only time you can season the actual pasta and broccoli is when you cook it. Make sure to season the cook liquid with plenty of salt.
- Don’t overcook the pasta! You want it nice and aldente
For more hearty fall soups, check out these posts:
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
- 1 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3/4 cup warm low-sodium chicken stock or broth
- 3/4 cup warm heavy cream
- 1 cup warm whole milk
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 lb cavatappi pasta
- 3 cups chopped broccoli (however small or large you prefer)
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt, it should taste like the sea.
- Add butter to a large skillet. Turn the heat on medium and once butter melts, add onion, carrot and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sweat the onions and carrots until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute.
- Mix chicken stock, heavy cream and milk in a large measuring cup. Slowly whisk mixture into butter, flour and vegetable mixture making sure there are no lumps. I like to add about 1/3, and whisk it in completely before adding the rest, which helps to prevent lumps. Add another teaspoon of salt, nutmeg and pepper, whisk. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Once the sauce is thickened, remove from the heat and working in batches, stir the cheese until melted. I like to add the cheese in thirds, stirring until each batch has melted before adding the next. This helps to ensure a creamy sauce.
- While the sauce thickens, add pasta to the boiling water. Once it cooks for a couple of minutes, add the broccoli. When the broccoli is soft and bright green and the pasta is aldente, drain.
- Place pasta and broccoli back in the pot and then pour the cheese sauce along with the remaining salt on top. Toss until combined. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Serve with crusty bread.