20-Minute Lemon Pesto Penne Recipe - Skillful Cook
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20-Minute Lemon Pesto Penne

27 reviews / 4.9 average

Sometimes my favorite blog recipes are the ones that I don't make for the blog.

This is one of those times. The tang of the tomatoes, the chewy whole wheat pasta, the tender-crisp baby broccoli, the creamy melted feta + the firm crumbly feta, plus the freshness of lemon, basil, and pesto. I mean, this is the whole flavor, color, texture, and nutritional package. AND 20 MINUTES. Read it and weep. Er, happy weep.

I made this last Sunday night on a whim, when what I had really wanted for dinner was a frozen pizza but come to find out we had eaten all 47 of our frozen pizzas. Hmmph. Bjork suggested ordering a pizza like the good husband that he is ❤, but a) I couldn't wait that long and b) I wanted something that had a tiny bit of redeeming nutritional value. For us, ordering a pizza means adding a large order of cheesy breadsticks means food bliss dipped in marinara means zero self control in the best/worst way possible.

So in order to avoid the pizza situation, the emotional roller coaster that comes along with being HUNGRY RIGHT NOW, I searched the cabinets for some quick dinner ingredients. Which can always be a little interesting, if your kitchen is anything like mine. Three boxes of the same pasta, half used jars of things, half of a lemon in a baggie in the fridge, that sort of thing.


Broccoli on a cutting board.

Luckily I had bought a little bunch of baby broccoli and never used it before we left for vacation, and by some miracle, it was still crunchy after hanging out in the fridge for a week while we roasted in the sun. Judge me. I dare you.

Luckily also I have a storehouse of pasta in which I found a half used bag of whole wheat penne pasta. Thank you, self, for being scrappy.

Penne with broccoli in a pan with a wooden spoon.

And to add to my dinner luck, we also just got a Costco membership, and during one of my recent trips I loaded up on mass amounts of things I NEEDED like Mediterranean jarred foods because: saaaalty. Kalamata olives, artichokes, and oven roasted tomatoes galore. We should be good to go for the next 18 years.

I opened the fridge looking for inspo and that brand new, barely used, extra jumbo jar of oven roasted tomatoes stared me right in the face. It was like the food universe was speaking to me. ALL THE SIGNS.

Again with the impromptu kitchen findings: a half of a lemon. a little bit of feta cheese. an open jar of pesto.

Lemon Pesto Penne in a pan with a wooden spoon.

BAM. No frozen pizza, no delivery pizza (but just you wait - Friday's a-comin) and a healthy homemade bright and colorful vegetarian dinner on the table in 20 minutes. WIN WIN WIN! So there we sit, eating double servings of this simple and quick lemon pesto penne, and Bjork is mouthing the words “this is the best pasta you've ever made” but I can't even hear him because my face is buried in tangy oven roasted tomatoes and crunchy broccoli and chewy pasta. Bjork's memory for food isn't quite the steel trap that mine is, and I'm think he miiiight have forgotten about the Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo and also the San Marzano Pasta eFagioli, but I'll take what I can get.

I made this on Sunday, it was a major win on all levels, so I made it again on Monday with a few extras like fresh basil and fresher baby broccoli. And I might make it again tonight. I think 20 Minute Lemon Pesto Penne tunnel vision is what they call it. End of story.

Lemon Pesto Penne in a white bowl with a fork.
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A picture of 20-Minute Lemon Pesto Penne

20-Minute Lemon Pesto Penne


This 20 Minute Lemon Pesto Penne is my husband's favorite pasta! Baby broccoli, oven roasted tomatoes, and fresh lemon and basil.


  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 2 cups baby broccoli
  • 1 cup oven roasted tomatoes (I used Kirkland brand and rinsed excess oil)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh basil, cut into ribbons


  1. Cook the penne according to package directions. Add the baby broccoli to the pot of boiling water for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking. It should turn bright green. Drain and return to the pan over medium high heat.
  2. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan with the pasta and baby broccoli; saute 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the pesto, half of the feta, and the lemon juice. Toss in the pan until well combined. Remove from heat and add the basil. Sprinkle with remaining feta before serving.


You could also use regular broccoli, broccolini, or broccoli rabe (all have different flavors and textures but I think they could all work).

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: lemon pesto penne, penne pasta, pesto pasta

This 20 Minute Lemon Pesto Penne is my husband's favorite pasta! Baby broccoli, oven roasted tomatoes, and fresh lemon and basil.

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Being hungry (or hangry as I call it) RIGHT NOW is the story of my life, and I am all for a big bowl of carbs to end that situation!
    20 minutes, lemon, whole wheat, and feta. I love everything about this!
    Face plant commencing.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    we were just talking about this today… how typically the meals that you do the least amount of planning/prepping for usually end up turning out the best. and this one definitely looks delicious!! =)

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I can almost always find all these ingredients – including the still crisp baby broccoli – in my pantry/fridge. And costco membership means I always have either Goat Cheese or Feta in the fridge too. This time its goat cheese,which will make a nice swap for feta in this recipe. The best part is the 20 mins it takes to make, this is dinner tonight!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I clearly need to take a closer look at the food in jars at Costco! Usually I get all distracted by the cookbooks and the nuts section (we go through nuts in my house like you wouldn’t believe).

    This looks so yummy and unbelievably easy — I’ll have to go on the hunt for some baby broccoli and try it out myself 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    That baby broccoli is so cute. I started writing down all of my recipes because I find that if I don’t, I end up liking what I make and forget how to make it. This dish looks wonderful.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks amazing! I think I have everything on hand, too, except the baby broccoli. Yay for half used lemons in the fridge!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Never thought I can use baby broccoli in a pasta, good idea!
    I have those pizza moment every week and always ended up with ordering pizza… Need to figure out healthier option too.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love these types of dishes where you try to use everything that you could possibly use and it turns out wonderful. We had that last night, if only I could remember what the heck I put it in, LOL. My notebook is coming with me everywhere now!

    Looks incredible, Lindsay – as always! Pinned. 🙂

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    So glad to know I’m not the only one who has to order those cheesy breadsticks to go with my pizza… which is also basically one big cheesy breadstick in round form. Carbs + cheese 4LYF. That motto goes for this yummy looking pasta too, obviously. <3

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Did you say 20 minutes? Yeah – I’ll be making this tomorrow. It looks so healthy and just the right amount of cheesy! I gave in to my pizza cravings this weekend. Zero nutritional value, unless you count the mushrooms…could be a stretch!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks delicious! I’ve always paired penne and pesto with parmesan but never thought to try feta. Now I’ll have to try it. Plus, I love that it’s healthy (because I love pizza, too).

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Has anyone who has commented on this recipe actually made it? Looking for reviews and what people thought of the dish after making it. (Anyone who has, please let me know) 🙂
      Kind of deceiving when I want to make these dishes, but the reviews are all 5 stars from people who have never even made the recipes…

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          I made it tonight and it was really good! Lots of flavor, if you can find fresh pesto vs jarred that would be the way to go, makes a huge difference!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Yes, and all the top reviews are from other food bloggers. Makes it hard to judge the recipe. I would probably put in spinach probably bok choy as I have trouble chewing at the moment(dental work) I’m
        In Western Canada, I have never seen baby broccoli here, anyone seen it it here? Thx

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks soooo good! I love all the colors! And I love the feta on there…as much as I eat pasta, I don’t think I’ve ever used feta. Wow. That I need to do ASAP. Yum!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love when awesome dishes like this come together from pantry/refrigerator ingredients on hand. It looks so much better than pizza!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have a box of whole wheat pasta staring me down in my pantry but it just sounds so much healthier than the regular version that I keep passing it by thinking it wouldn’t taste as good. your pasta dish has changed my mind and I’ll give it a try!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        can I just say how amazing that looks.my taste buds going crazy..am probably the smallest person you’d find and love love love to eat..i love these dishes and usually when I don’t have broc, I swap with baby spinach… :-)..great job