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Gennaro’s Wholemeal Penne with Broccoli & Sweet Potato

Gennaro Contaldo


Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 20 mins


320g wholemeal penne

400g broccoli florets (or same amount tenderstem/purple-sprouting broccoli)

250g sweet potato, cut into cubes

sea salt, for the cooking water

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus an extra splash

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ fresh red chilli, finely chopped

60g grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling, if desired

Veg Portions / Serving: 1


Recipe donated by Gennaro Contaldo for Veg Power. Recipe from "Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian" by Gennaro Contaldo. Food photography by Kim Lightbody | Portrait photography by David Loftus​ |

Pasta with broccoli is a common dish in Italy, where it is usually flavoured with garlic and chilli. In this penne with broccoli & sweet potato recipe, the broccoli is mashed in a blender and served with small chunks of delicious sweet potato, adding extra nutrients and colour to the dish. It makes a healthy combination, which goes really well with wholemeal (wholewheat) pasta. If you prefer, you can substitute the wholemeal penne with white-flour penne.


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta, broccoli and sweet potato. Cook until the broccoli is tender, 4–5 minutes. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain in a colander. Continue to cook the pasta and sweet potato, until the pasta is al dente, 8–10 minutes (check the instructions on your packet).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the garlic and chilli, and sweat for about 30 seconds. Add the drained broccoli and stir-fry for 1 minute or so.

Remove from the heat and transfer the broccoli mixture to a food processor. Add a further splash of olive oil and the grated Parmesan and blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the frying pan.

Drain the pasta and sweet potato, reserving some of the cooking water. Add to the broccoli mixture, mix well and heat through, together with a little of the reserved cooking water, if needed. Serve with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan, if desired.

Engaging Kids

Engaging Kids

Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating.

Kids in the kitchen

Kids in the kitchen

Get the kids to weigh the pasta, grate the Parmesan, measure everything for the food processor and then press the button to blitz. They can also grate more Parmesan to sprinkle over their own plate of pasta.



While getting kids to interact with veggies for real and using their senses to explore them is best, encouraging hands off activities like arts & crafts, puzzles & games or at-home science experiments can be a great start, particularly for those who are fussier eaters or struggle with anything too sensory. Use these veg-themed activities as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. We have loads of crafty downloads here, puzzles here, and quirky science with veg here.



Once you feel your child is ready to engage a little more, you can show them how to explore the veg you have on hand with their senses, coming up with playful silly descriptions of how a veg smells, feels, looks, sounds and perhaps even tastes. Find ideas, videos and some simple sensory education session ideas to get you started here.



The moments before food is offered can be a perfect opportunity for engagement that can help make it more likely a child will eat it! Giving children a sense of ownership in the meal can make a big difference to their feelings going into it and the pride they take in it. You know your child best, but if you aren’t sure where to start, we have some fun and simple ideas for easy roles you can give them in the serving process over here.

Gennaro Contaldo

Gennaro taught Jamie Oliver about Italian cooking and is author of many best-selling books. He appears on Saturday Kitchen and his own show: Two Greedy Italians.

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