Broccoli & Cheesy Meatball Orecchiette


Reasons why orecchiette is a superior pasta shape: they’re small and cute and easy to eat. They’re bowl shaped, so it’s like mini bowls scooping up buckets of flavour from the sauce with every bite. They’re criminally underrated, and we’re champions of the underdog here at Rooted!

Our dish features parmesan beef meatballs, garlicky broccoli, and a simple light sauce of quality olive oil and zesty lemon. Simple, comforting, nourishing. 


What you need

Large bowl

Large frying pan

Large pot for boiling pasta



For the meatballs:

  • 1lb (450g) ground pork (or beef)
  • ¼ cup (30g) breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup (25g) grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup (10g) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

For the orecchiette:

  • 12oz (340g) orecchiette pasta
  • Salt, for boiling pasta

For the sauce:

  • ⅓ cup (80g) butter
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 4 cups (300g) broccoli, diced into 1cm cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garnish:

  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley, chopped


Step 1

In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and egg. Mix well and form into small meatballs, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.

Step 2

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Step 3

Cook the orecchiette pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup (240ml) of pasta water and drain the pasta.

Step 4

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. In the same frying pan used for the meatballs, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Step 5

Add the rest of the sauce ingredients as well as 1 cup of the pasta water and cook for 4-5 minutes until broccoli is tender. 

Step 6

Add the cooked orecchiette, meatballs with the broccoli sauce, stirring to combine. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to absorb some of the sauce.

Step 7

Serve the orecchiette in bowls, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley.


Energy (kcal): 760 | Carbohydrates (g): 82 Sugars (g): 4 | Protein (g): 37 | Fat (g): 33 | Saturates (g): 9 | Monounsaturates (g): 18 | Polyunsaturates (g): 3 Fibre (g): 5Sodium (mg): 670 Potassium (mg): 780Vitamin A (IU): 1020 Vitamin C (mg): 70 Calcium (mg): 230Iron (mg): 5


  • Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs and gluten-free orecchiette or another gluten-free pasta variety.
  • Make it vegetarian: Replace the meatballs with vegetarian or vegan meatball alternatives.
  • Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Finishing touches: We probably sound like a broken record, but a dollop of crispy chilli as an extra garnish is *chef’s kiss*! 🤌
  • Nic thought this was a fun fact: Did you know that “orecchiette” means “little ears” in Italian? This pasta shape, originating from the southern region of Italy, is perfect for scooping up sauces and ingredients, thanks to its ear-like shape and concave structure.

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