Creamy Lemon Broccoli Pasta

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This easy creamy lemon broccoli pasta is a 30 minute, one pot meal that will easily satisfy the whole family. An easy cream sauce, fresh broccoli, and tender pasta come together quickly and is topped with a lemony, buttery breadcrumb for a perfect crunch.

a large white bowl of penne pasta with broccoli topped with breadcrumbs.

This COVID era recipe was developed when my fridge and pantry were looking sparse but the grocery store was still a scary place to be. I often found myself filling our meal plan with simpler meals that stretched rather than risk an extra trip!

Thankfully flavor often made the menu too, this dish no exception. It uses easy ingredients like cream cheese to create a delicious, silky sauce without needing to make a roux that coats the noodles and broccoli perfectly. With a simple but optional lemony breadcrumb topping, it even looks a bit fancy!


This really takes just a handful of simple ingredients to make, and I’ve also provided several suggestions for substitutions if you don’t have what you need on hand!

Ingredients to make broccoli pasta like dried penne, breadcrumbs, cream cheese, lemons, butter, and broccoli.
  • Pasta – I like a hearty noodle for this, like penne, but feel free to use anything you have on hand.
  • Broccoli – I use fresh broccoli, but you can also use any other hardy green veg like chopped asparagus.
  • Cream Cheese – Use a full fat option, the high fat content ensures the sauce won’t break or curdle.
  • Milk – Any dairy or non-dairy option will work.
  • Lemons – One large or two small lemons do the trick. Bottled juice works but you’ll miss out on the zest.
  • Breadcrumbs – Use a plain option like unseasoned homemade breadcrumb.
  • Butter
  • Parsley

Pro Tip: Sub frozen broccoli for fresh anytime! To prevent mushy broccoli, I suggest roasting your frozen broccoli and adding it to the final dish instead of blanching it in the pasta water.

How to Make Creamy Lemon Broccoli Pasta

This easy meal comes together all in one pot through a series of simple steps. Follow my tips and this can easily be on your table in 30 minutes.

boiling broccoli and pasta in a large pot.

Part One – Cook the Broccoli and Pasta

First bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile zest and juice your lemons, and chop your parsley. When boiling, add in pasta and cook for recommended time.

Wash and trim your broccoli into large uniform pieces. Too small and they’ll overcook and get mushy. When your pasta has only 1-2 minutes left to cook, add your broccoli into the pot with the pasta.

breadcrumbs toasted with herbs and butter in a pot.

Part Two – Make the Breadcrumb Topping

Remove 1 1/2 cups of water from the pasta pot, then dump your pasta and broccoli into a large strainer. Return the empty pot to the stove over VERY LOW heat. Add in the butter.

When the butter is melted, add in your breadcrumbs, lemon zest, parsley, and a pinch of salt. Stir until well coated with butter and the parsley is evenly distributed. Cook for a minute or two, or until lightly golden and toasted.

penne and broccoli stirred together in a creamy sauce.

Part 3 – Make Cream Sauce and Combine

Remove breadcrumbs from the pot and add in 3/4 cup of pasta water, the cream cheese, lemon juice, and milk, whisking until all your cream cheese is melted and you have a thick creamy sauce. Taste and season with another pinch of salt if needed.

Add in your broccoli and pasta and fold it together gently. Vigorous stirring will make your broccoli break down. It’s still yummy, but not as pretty.

If you find the sauce to thick for your liking slowly add in the remaining pasta water until it’s thinned to your liking. Serve immediately and top with a generous scoop of breadcrumbs.

Pro Tip: Pasta water contains all the lovely starches from the pasta, meaning it helps the pasta sauce thicken and cling to the pasta when added to sauces. It also contains salt, helping to season!

a bowl of penne and broccoli topped with herbed toasted breadcrumbs.


I don’t have/use butter, can I substitute?

Sure, use equal amounts of olive oil instead.

Do I have to add breadcrumbs?

No, the pasta is creamy and flavorful on it’s own, but the added crunch and extra kick of lemon is a nice touch!

Does this reheat well?

Any kind of cream sauce tends to thicken when stored. If you want to save leftovers, I usually store the pasta separate from the breadcrumbs, and pour a couple of tablespoons of the leftover pasta water into the bottom of the bowl. When I reheat it, the water helps the sauce loosen up without sacrificing flavor.

Can I freeze it?

I generally advise against freezing cream/dairy based pastas as the texture of the sauce tends to break down once frozen.

Other Delicious Pasta Dishes and Sauces

I hope you love this simple creamy lemon broccoli pasta as much as we do. Be sure to check out my other pasta options while you’re here too!

Love this recipe? Please consider leaving a 5 star rating in the recipe card below, or a comment to share your experience with fellow home cooks. I hope you enjoy and as always, Happy Eating!

a white bowl of pasta with broccoli and breadcrumbs.

Creamy Lemon Broccoli Pasta

Mikayla M.
A easy, one pot creamy pasta with broccoli, buttery breadcrumbs, and the perfect hint of lemon.
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 525 kcal


  • 1 lb dried pasta pasta of choice!
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 large lemon* see notes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup pasta water reserved after cooking pasta
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • salt, to taste


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. You need about 3 quarts.
  • Zest and juice your lemon and set aside. Finely mince your parsley and set aside. Wash and trim your broccoli into similarly sized florets.
  • When water is boiling, add in pasta and cook for times indicated on packaging.
  • When only 2 minutes remain on the pasta cook time, add in the broccoli.
  • Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta water, then drain the pasta and broccoli in a large strainer. Return the empty pot to the stove over low heat.
  • Add in your butter. When the butter is melted, add breadcrumbs, lemon zest, parsley, and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until lightly toasted and browned. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  • Return pot to heat and add in 3/4 cup of pasta water, cream cheese, milk, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until cream cheese is melted. Taste and add another pinch of salt if needed.
  • Return the broccoli and pasta to the pot and stir gently to coat. Add in more pasta water if the sauce is too thick for your liking.
  • Serve with a generous scoop of breadcrumbs on top.


*One large juicy lemon is usually plenty, but you may need two if you have smaller lemons. You want between 2-3 tsp of zest, and about 3 tbs of juice.


Calories: 525kcalCarbohydrates: 72gProtein: 16gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 276mgPotassium: 454mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1151IUVitamin C: 53mgCalcium: 129mgIron: 2mg
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Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.

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  1. 5 stars
    The recipe turned out delicious. We love lemon so I used 2 even though I had pretty large lemons to begin with. It was the perfect amount of lemon flavor for us.

    1. Kristina, I’m so glad you were able to add just the right amount of lemon for your taste and the recipe turned out great!

  2. 5 stars
    What a great summer pasta dish! We have a huge lemon tree and I’m always looking for recipes to use them up. This is so scrumptious!

    1. Lori, I’m glad I could help you use up some of those lemons. I’m glad you all enjoyed the dish as well!

    1. Dee, I make this quite often since it takes just over 30 minutes from start to on the table. Thank you for sharing how much you enjoyed it!

  3. 5 stars
    This pasta is so perfect! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, it is a new favourite in my house 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    This was so good! I love that the cream cheese is a little sweeter (compared to using other cheeses) and then paired with that kick of lemon, it was perfect! I didn’t have any breadcrumbs, but it still turned out great!

    It was super easy to make and is easy to halve if you don’t have enough of one of the ingredients! I made it a week later but used peas instead of broccoli, and loved that as well! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your review, it’s full of great tips, I’ll be trying it with peas myself next time, sounds delicious! A quick tip, next time you’re out of breadcrumbs, you can make your own pretty easily! I have a guide for that here 🙂