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Broccoli and Ricotta Pasta

Adding vegetables to classic kid-favorites like pasta is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into meals without hiding them – and it increases the chances that the child may try it! This broccoli and ricotta pasta combines a creamy sauce with nutrient-packed broccoli to create a delicious dish that any kid (and adult) will love!

I hate a vegetables! I’m not eating this!

Sometimes, the hardest part of getting children to eat their green vegetables is their food neophobia, or fear of new foods. Books can be a great way to introduce vegetables before including them in a new dish. This can help to reduce mealtime anxiety and can shift the child’s perspective from “ewww, that’s broccoli” to “oh, that’s broccoli! I know about broccoli, we just read about it”. While they may not gobble it up at first, visually exposing children to foods before offering a taste exposure can increase their comfort around the food and improve the chances that they will try it!

Here are some of our favorite books about broccoli and other vegetables:

Try incorporating new vegetable-packed dishes like this broccoli and ricotta pasta after reading a few of these fantastic books. More of our favorite books can be found here.

Begin this recipe by cooking the pasta according to the package. For younger children, I like to use smaller, bite-size pastas like ditalini or small shells. Next, steam the broccoli florets and cut into bite size pieces.

This recipe uses mild flavors by seasoning the cream sauce with garlic and a little salt and pepper, but the sauce is very versatile and could be adjusted using your family’s favorite seasonings.

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Heat until fragrant. Add the ricotta cheese and stir until it begins to melt. Lower heat and add seasonings and milk. Stir to combine. Keep over low heat until sauce is hot throughout. add cooked pasta and chopped broccoli. Stir until evenly combined. Enjoy warm!

This broccoli and ricotta paste makes a fantastic side dish to any meal, but can be used as a complete meal as well. The dish alone contains 10 grams of protein per serving and 2 grams of fiber (this could be more if you use a whole grain pasta!). Add some pre-cooked chicken for a little protein boost.

I hope your little ones enjoy this as much as mine do!

Broccoli and Ricotta Pasta

This delicious side dish combines vegetables with a classic kid favorite – pasta with a creamy sauce.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Servings 12 people


  • 16 oz Small pasta such as small shells , elbows, or ditalini
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Minced garlic
  • 2 cups Ricotta cheese, low fat
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black pepper, ground
  • 1 cup Milk, 2%
  • 8 cups Broccoli florets Can be fresh or frozen.


  • Cook pasta according to the instructions on the package.
  • While pasta is cooking, steam the broccoli and chop into bite size pieces
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  • Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add ricotta cheese to the garlic and oil. Stir until cheese begins to melt and sauce becomes smooth.
  • Add salt and pepper to ricotta sauce mixture. Stir to combine.
  • Lower heat and add milk to ricotta sauce. Stir to combine.
  • When pasta has finished cooking, drain well and add to sauce.
  • Add broccoli to sauce and stir until both broccoli and pasta are well coated with the cheese sauce.
  • Serve warm.

Jessica Barnes, PhD, RDN, LD

Dr. Jessica Barnes received her PhD in nutrition from Texas Woman's University. Her research focused on food preference development and creating materials to help preschoolers become familiar with healthy foods. She has worked with families and communities as a clinical and community Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

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