20-Minute Lemon Pesto Penne

Lemon Pesto Penne in a skillet with a wooden spoon.

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.
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

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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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