Cacio e Pepe Broccoli
parmesan broccoli

Parmesan Broccoli

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #00adef;”] I[/dropcap]f you haven’t come across Cacio e Pepe, you’re in for a treat!

This dish was inspired by the legendary simple 3-ingredient pasta dish of cheese, black pepper and spaghetti.

It’s a brilliant pantry meal, toss freshly cooked pasta in mountains of finely grated parmesan or pecorino and then use the heat from the pasta and some cooking water to create an oozy cheesey sauce.

So of course I had to try making a healthier version by subbing in steamed broccoli for the carby spaghetti.

Talk about a winner. Fresh and green from the broccoli. Still satisfyingly cheesy. My type of one pot meal.

To manage expectations if you’re used to the pasta version, the lack of starch in the broccoli cooking water means the sauce is more chunky and stringy than smooth creamy.

Not a problem for me. But would hate for you to be disappointed.

And make sure you use a microplane grater or something that will get the cheese particles equally small for this. If the cheese is too chunky it won’t melt.

Cacio e Pepe Broccoli

Course Dinner
Cuisine low carb, modern
Keyword 15-minutes, broccoli, parmesan
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 person


  • 125 g parmesan cheese , finely grated (4oz)
  • 1 head broccoli (300g / 10oz)
  • black pepper freshly ground


  1. Bring about 1cm (1/2 in) salted water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, chop your broccoli into bite sized little trees and slice the stems. When the water is boiling add the broccoli to the pot and cover. Simmer for 4 minutes or until the broccoli is no longer crunchy, drain into a bowl to keep the cooking water.
  2. Place drained broccoli in a warm serving bowl. Top with cheese. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water and stir until the cheese melts to coat the broccoli. If it isn’t melting add another tablespoon of cooking water. But don’t be tempted to add too much or you will end up with a watery puddle.
  3. Taste broccoli and season with lashing of black pepper. It probably won’t need salt with all the cheese.

Recipe Video

NET CARBS: 16g / serve.

Variations & Substitutions Parmesan Broccoli

pantry-friendly – commercial or home frozen broccoli. Just simmer broccoli until hot before draining.

Keto / ultra low carb – replace half the broccoli with baby spinach leaves.

dairy-free – replace cheese with macadamia cream, dairy-free pesto or almond hummus (no need to add the cooking water for these)

more substantial (carb lovers) – cooked spaghetti (and use the pasta cooking water for the sauce).

more substantial (low carb) – extra broccoli, extra cheese, shaved parmesan to serve, roast macadamias, roast almonds, roast walnuts, almond bread, poached or boiled egg to serve.

Low FODMAP – use only broccoli florettes (not stems). Replace 1/2 the broccoli with baby spinach.

different vegetables – green beans, cauliflower or asparagus can be cooked in a similar manner (just adjust the cooking time accordingly). I’m also thinking the cheese extravaganza would be lovely instead of the egg in this sauteed cabbage dish. Cooked chickpeas.

different cheese – any hard or melting cheese will work. Pecorino is traditional. You could skip the cooking water and just crumble in feta or goats cheese and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to make the sauce.

carnivore – use as a side for roast chicken. Or add browned chunks of bacon, sausage or some quick pulled chicken.

more fancy / for entertaining – toss in fresh parsley or basil and serve with shaved parmesan or toasted sliced almonds on top. And serve some warm almond bread (or sourdough) and butter on the side

Waste Avoidance Strategy Parmesan Broccoli

parmesan – wrap in baking paper and store in the fridge in a sealed paper bag or airtight container. Will keep for months. Can be frozen if you’re going away.

broccoli – will keep wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Can be frozen (if you have time chop before freezing so it will defrost quickly in the pan).

freshly ground black pepper – keep it on the pantry.

Problem Solving Guide

bland – add more cheese. Or some salt.

too dry – drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

too cheesey – next time use less cheese. For now a squeeze of lemon can freshen things up.

too watery – you’ve added too much cooking water (or not drained the broccoli properly). Next time be careful to drain thoroughly and use less cooking water. For now serve with a soup spoon or some almond bread for soaking up the delicious cheesy juices.

cheese not melting – the cheese needs to be very finely grated to melt from the heat of the broccoli. Pop the cheesey broccoli back in the pan and cook, stirring constantly until the cheese melts. A non stick pan is best for this job as the melted cheese likes to stick.

didn’t reserve the cooking liquid? – just use some boiling water from the kettle.

Prepare Ahead

Best when freshly made. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen. To serve, warm in a pan with a little oil.

Parmesan Broccoli

More recipes similar to Parmesan Broccoli

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

Tags: , , ,