With very few ingredients, the feta transforms this simple vegetarian meal into a dish any meat eater would enjoy.






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (2 votes)

I don’t think feta gets the respect it deserves. People are always raving on about the oozy, creamy French cheeses, while I could quite happily indulge in a piece of salty, tangy and crumbly feta. Feta is incredibly versatile and has the power to transform a one-dimensional dish like this broccoli pasta.


  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 200 g fresh cavatelli or dried short pasta such as conchiglie, fusilli or gnochetti sardi
  • 120 g Greek feta, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, zest  
  • 35 g (⅓ cup) grated Parmigiano Reggiano


  • 200 g (1⅓ cups) semola di grano duro or semolina flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 90 ml warm water

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time: 20 minutes

  1. For the cavatelli, place the flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the warm water and use your hands to combine. Once things have started to come together, you can tip the dough onto your work surface. You’ll still have small bits of flour everywhere and the texture will be very crumbly. Take a deep breath and squeeze everything together, moving the dough around with force to mop up any excess flour. A pastry cutter helps to cut the dough to reveal the wetter parts, which can then be used to mop up any remaining flour.
  2. If you’ve already made egg pasta dough, you’ll notice that the semolina dough has a different texture and touch. It won’t be as stretchy and pillowy as an egg dough, but the end result will still be silky and smooth. Squeeze your dough into a ball. Cup your hands around the dough and, using your palms, push the dough out, wrap your fingers around the top and roll it back in. Think of it as a tide going in and out, in and out. You don’t want to tear the dough apart but use the stretch to push it forward and roll it back up. You may find it easier to push with the heel of one hand and roll the dough back up on itself with your other hand. Remember to breathe. Even though we are unwinding here, we still want to keep moving at an energetic pace to prevent the dough from drying out. Like egg dough, if things start to feel too dry, mist or wet your hands and continue to knead. Keep kneading the dough for 5–7 minutes, no more. You’ll notice the texture change substantially – it will become smooth and soft, just like a baby’s bottom! Wrap in plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  3. To shape the cavatelli, cut the dough into 4 portions and roll each into a thin sausage, about 1 cm-thick. Working with one roll at a time and keeping the others covered to prevent them drying out, cut off small pieces of dough, then roll each piece down a cavatelli or gnocchi board, or a grater and place on a lightly floured tray.  
  4. Bring a large saucepan of water to a lively boil and season as salty as the sea.
  5. Peel the broccoli stalk to remove any woody bits, then cut the stalk into 1 cm-thick slices. Chop the florets into 50 cent-sized pieces – you want everything to be around the same size so it cooks evenly. Drop the broccoli into the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes or until just blanched and bright green. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli and set aside. Keep the water on the boil and add your pasta.
  6. Finely chop the broccoli into small pieces.
  7. Heat the olive oil in a large deep-frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until just starting to turn golden, but please don’t let it burn. Add the chilli flakes and broccoli and toss everything together. Season lightly, remembering you have your salty feta and Parmigiano Reggiano to come. Give the mixture another toss.
  8. Ladle 125 ml (½ cup) of the pasta cooking water into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the broccoli starts to soften but still has some bite (we don’t want a mush). Your finely chopped broccoli should drink up most of this water.
  9. When the pasta is just al dente, use a slotted spoon to scoop it directly into the sauce. Add the feta and give everything a good stir, adding some more pasta cooking water to loosen it all up. The pasta, broccoli and cheese will drink up a lot of the liquid, so keep this in mind as you’re after a loose sauce. Toss the pasta until the feta has all but melted and you are left with a lovely creamy sauce.
  10. Stir through the lemon zest and Parmigiano Reggiano. Give everything a final toss and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.


Adam Liaw cooks, laughs, and explores culture with some of Australia's most beloved in The Cook Up With Adam Liaw.

Photography by Danielle Abou Karam.