Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

I finally got my pantry in order. Ok, that’s not totally accurate – it’s a mess of nuts, seeds, oats, and flours all piled on top of each other because nothing has “its place” yet in the new kitchen. But the fact that I have most of the essentials at least in there is progress (right?). So when I brought this beautiful broccoli home from the farmers market a few weeks ago, I turned to my mostly-stocked pantry to make my broccoli – stems, leaves, and all! – into a full meal. What came out is this creamy white bean puree that I poured over shells and broccoli.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

One thing about this recipe – it’s not mac & cheese. I know it looks cheesy and there’s an option below to use cheese if you don’t want to use nutritional yeast, but this sauce isn’t meant to recreate cheese. It’s lusciously bean-y, a little tangy, super homey, and delicious in its own way.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

I serve this the way I serve most saucey pastas – mix most of the sauce into the pan with the broccoli and the shells, and reserve the remaining sauce to spoon on top of the portioned bowls.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

5.0 from 5 reviews
Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli
a note about this recipe – it’s not meant to replace your favorite mac & cheese. It’s lusciously bean-y, a little tangy, super homey, and delicious in its own way.
Serves: serves 4
  • 2½ cups small shell pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cups broccoli florets, chopped stems, and leaves (keep stems separate)
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • lemon wedges, for serving
For the white bean sauce:
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup vegetable broth, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast*
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Make the sauce: In a blender, combine the white beans, broth, lemon juice, olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chopped broccoli stems and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add the broccoli florets and leaves and a splash of water or vegetable broth. Cover and turn off the heat.
  5. Allow the broccoli to steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until tender but still bright green. Add the pasta, then stir in ¾ of the sauce, adding more broth if the sauce is too dry.
  6. Season to taste with more salt, pepper and lemon juice, as desired, and portion into bowls. Divide the remaining sauce onto each bowl. Top with the pine nuts and serve with lemon wedges on the side.
*If you don’t have nutritional yeast, you can substitute with freshly grated parmesan cheese.


If you make this, let us see! Tag your photo with #loveandlemons on Instagram.


  1. Oh now I really want to organize my pantry, too. It very quickly gets out of control! Lol. Love this dinner idea. Can’t wait to try the sauce!

  2. Gaby Dalkin from on said:

    I bet this recipe tastes as good as it looks!!

    • Melissa Ferrell on said:

      Looks delicious!! Can the sauce be prepared ahead of time and stored?

  3. Lexi from on said:

    This looks absolutely PERFECT 🙂 Must-make!

  4. Maria on said:

    Love this hearty meal!

  5. J. Willis on said:

    This makes me happy. I have a severe tree but allergy and it’s hard to find “cheese” sauces that aren’t made with nuts. I can’t wait to try this.

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  8. on said:

    This looks fabulous!!!

  9. javascript obfuscator on said:

    Great recipe! Love this hearty meal!

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  12. Adriana on said:

    We just had this pasta, I was so sure I had broccoli in the fridge but I didn’t so I used two medium zucchinis just sautéed in the olive oil with the onion. It was very good, I really liked the sauce, even my picky teen ate and liked it 👍🏼

  13. Heather CHristo on said:

    I love how simple and delicious this looks!

  14. Veronica Hudson on said:

    I love pasta!!! In fact pasta is my whole life. So this dish is definitely gonna be on my must do list. thanks for sharing this recipe. Please do share more pasta recipes. And add Eggs On Cloud recipe too

  15. Ann on said:

    Hello. Can you explain the use of nutritional yeast in your dish?
    I am not familiar with its usages in cooking. Thanks

    • Sara on said:

      Nutritional yeast gives the sauce that cheesy flavor, even though it’s not cheese at all. It’s a common addition to vegan sauces, it’s incredible on popcorn, and great on potatoes and probably a lot more things that I’ve never used it for. It’s a staple in my kitchen! Get it cheapest at Trader Joe’s.

      Making this recipe right now. I haven’t added all the parts together yet, but so far it’s very tasty!

  16. Anne Hatton on said:

    Couldn’t resist this. I added a few little items I found hiding away in the fridge that were begging to be included – green pepper, spring onions, cottage cheese. Sprinkled some grated cheese on top too. Delicious, thank you for the inspiration.

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  18. Leanne on said:

    Is there anything that would work in place of pine nuts?

    • I think some crushed up toasted walnuts (since they’re also a soft nut) would be great! You can also skip them if you like, they’re not essential to the recipe.

  19. Roxane on said:

    Has anybody tried this cold? Want to take to a potluck lunch but need to make the night before as no time that morning. Usually I know the answer because I have had a chance to cook stuff ahead and because I love left overs always eat them cold the next day.

  20. Jessica on said:

    Loved the taste and texture of the sauce. I subbed Parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast and found it still had nice light taste. I also subbed in some zucchini noodles to lighten it up. I would make this again.

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  23. Ashley on said:

    Hi! This recipe looks delicious 🙂 Do you have any suggestions on a substitute for bean ingredients…possibly cashews? Would love to make this in a way that avoids a bean (& almond) allergies.
    Thanks so much!!

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  27. Melissa Ferrell on said:

    Looks delicious! Can the sauce be prepared beforehand and stored? Thank you!

    • yes – the sauce will last about 5 days in the fridge. I’d wait to cook the pasta until you’re ready to eat!

      • Melissa Ferrell on said:

        Wonderful, thank you!

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  30. Ali Harmer on said:

    I made this tonight and both hubby and I LOVED it. I used gluten free quinoa noodles and a good pecorino instead of nutritional yeast, and honestly I think this could sub in for Mac and Cheese for us! It is lemony, creamy, filling, warming and delicious! The perfect antidote to this gloomy day. My one note is that I didn’t like the garlic blended into the sauce and found it too garlic-y as a result. Next time, I will add the garlic in with the onions and broccolini to cook a bit. Thank you for this awesome riff on a cheesy fav!

  31. Jeannine on said:

    Made this last weekend and LOVED it! Thank you.
    The beany sauce certainly is flexible for other adaptions too.

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