With a super easy method that only requires one pot, you can have this easy Broccoli Mac and Cheese ready for family dinner—or a kids meal. It cooks in about 20 minutes and has a solid dose of nutrients and deliciousness.

broccoli mac and cheese in white and colorful bowls

Broccoli Mac and Cheese

I am forever look for new pasta recipes to share with my family because while I love buttered pasta as much as the next person, I really do love a little more flavor. Enter: Broccoli Mac and Cheese!

This recipe requires minimal pots and equipment, cooks quickly, and is really versatile to help you use what you have on hand and prefer–as in fresh or frozen broccoli, added spices or simpler.

I did my best to make sure that any leftovers reheat to the same creamy consistency (thank you cream cheese!) and that you don’t have to make a roux.

We usually have this as a vegetarian dinner, but I can also attest that it’s delicious with a little ham or a fried egg on top. Or cubes of cooked chicken or white beans. YUM.

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need a handful of ingredients. Here’s a look:

ingredients in broccoli mac and cheese
  • Milk: I usually use whole milk for maximum creaminess, but low fat milk would work too if that’s what you have.
  • Broth or water: I prefer to use reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth here. Water works if you don’t have broth.
  • Pasta: A shorter shape, like elbows, mini farfalle, or ditalini, is best for the timing in this recipe. Adjust the timing if you use a larger or smaller shape.
  • Broccoli: I prefer the steam-in-the-bag frozen kind here since it eliminates the need for a second pot.
  • Cheddar cheese: Shredded cheese makes this ingredient easy to add.
  • Butter
  • Cream cheese: This helps the mixture stay creamy, even during reheating.
  • Optional spices You can add onion powder for additional flavor if you like.

TIP: I prefer to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli, but you can also use fresh. See the Notes at the bottom of the recipe for the info at the end of this post for those details.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Gluten-free: Use a favorite kind of gluten-free pasta. The one from Barilla would be my choice here.
  • You can use regular frozen broccoli, steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli, or fresh broccoli. You’ll want to chop fresh broccoli into florets.
  • Use reduced-sodium vegetable broth to make this vegetarian.
  • You can also stir in frozen peas at the end, rather than using broccoli, if you prefer.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at how to make this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full information.

how to make broccoli mac and cheese step by step
  1. Add the milk and broth or water to a pot and bring to a simmer. You’ll start on high heat and turn it down to about medium.
  2. Stir in the pasta and let it cook until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, warm the broccoli according to the package directions and cut up with scissors if you want smaller pieces. (That is optional!)
  4. Stir the broccoli, cheese, butter, and cream cheese into the pasta mixture. When you stir everything in, the liquid won’t be fully absorbed yet, but it will soon be so don’t worry. Serve warm.

TIP: The size of the pasta you use may alter the cooking time slightly, so you can check it for doneness and cook for an additional minute or two if needed if you use a larger shape than I did.

broccoli mac and cheese in pot

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of pasta works best for this?

I prefer to use elbows or mini shells or another shape that’s a similar size. If you go much bigger or smaller, it may take more or less time to cook. (If you go with a smaller shape, it may wind up much saucier than what’s shown here.)

What kind of broccoli do you use?

I like to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli so that I don’t need to get out a separate pot. I steam it according to the package directions in the microwave and drain it.

Then I cut it up into smaller pieces with kitchen shears. You can also steam fresh broccoli in a pot fitted with a steamer basket if you prefer.

Can I make this ahead of time?

The cheesy texture of this pasta is smoothest and best served right after cooking, but the leftovers reheat really nicely. I added in some cream cheese to the mixture to help with this and the mixture stirs up nicely when warmed from being cold.

(My kids like to take the leftovers for lunch the next day—I pack it in a thermos for school!)

broccoli mac and cheese in blue kids bowl

How to Store and Reheat

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Warm for 30-60 seconds, or until warmed through stirring halfway through for even heating, in the microwave. If the mixture seems very firm when you pull it out of the fridge, sprinkle the top with water before reheating.

Best Tips for Success

  • The size of the pasta you use may alter the cooking time slightly. This recipe was tested with elbow pasta, so any kind that’s a similar size should work the same.
  • I prefer to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli to cut down on pots, but you can also steam fresh broccoli in a pot fitted with a steamer basket.
  • I don’t often call for a half of pound of pasta, but this is very filling so I went with a smaller amount here to avoid a ton of leftovers. But if you want to use a full pound, you can click the “2x” in the recipe card to adjust it up.
  • Add the optional spices to add more flavor as desired.
  • Find more of my favorite toddler pasta recipes.

Related Recipes


I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it, so please comment and rate the recipe below!

servings-of-broccoli-mac-and-cheese-for-family

One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese

The method on this recipe is streamlined to cut down on dish washing. Add the optional spices for more flavor if you like! Double it to make more.
5 from 30 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 475kcal
Servings 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk (I use whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
  • 8 ounces elbow or mini shell pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces frozen broccoli (I use the steam-in-the-bag kind)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (feel free to double this!)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder (optional)

Instructions

  • Add the broth and milk to a large pot set over high heat. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to medium-high.
  • Stir in the pasta and salt, and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the pasta is just soft. (The liquid will not be totally absorbed and that is okay—it will be by the end of the process!)
  • Meanwhile, steam the broccoli in the bag (or steam it on the stovetop if using fresh broccoli). Drain the broccoli and cut it up roughly with kitchen scissors.
  • Turn the heat off and stir the cheese, broccoli. butter, cream cheese, and salt into the pasta mixture. Taste and season with additional salt as needed. Serve.

Video

Notes

  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Warm for 30-60 seconds, or until warmed through, in the microwave.
  • The size of the pasta you use may alter the cooking time slightly. This recipe was tested with elbow pasta, so any kind that’s a similar size should work the same.
  • I prefer to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli to cut down on pots, but you can also steam fresh or regular frozen broccoli florets in a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Fill your pot with 2 inches of water, add the steamer basket, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes or until broccoli is just tender. Add to the recipe.
  • I don’t often call for a half of pound of pasta, but this is very filling so I went with a smaller amount here to avoid a ton of leftovers. But if you want to use a full pound, you can click the “2x” in the recipe card to adjust it up.
  • Add the optional spices to add more flavor as desired. Adults may also like to top their serving with crushed red pepper or hot sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 475kcal, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 53mg, Sodium: 584mg, Potassium: 622mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 1058IU, Vitamin C: 63mg, Calcium: 395mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this for the first time last night and it’s in the family rotation NOW! So yummy! I doubled it (1 lb of pasta) so that we had left overs. The pasta was cooked well before all of the liquid was cooked down. I was on the verge of mushy, over cooked pasta with a ton of milk/stock still in the pot. I just went for it: added the cheese and remaining ingredients and continued to cook it on LOW until it all came together. I doubled the cheese (which was a suggestion) and I doubled the cream cheese to give it an extra creamy texture. Added white pepper and doubled onion powder for a more bold flavor. My kids love flavor (thankful!) so I always go for things like that. I can’t wait to warm up left overs for lunch! Thanks, Amy!

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this! Added some pan-seared chicken because my husband likes meat and it turned out great! My toddler ate it and my husband said we should add it to the rotation.

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