A simple but surprising recipe using spicy cheese to bring amazing flavor in an easy way! Combined with garlic and orange roasted broccoli, it’s got a unique flavor you will love. You can use chili cheddar or pepper jack depending on what is available to you, and the recipe only requires 8 ingredients for a great result.
Wondering what to do with chili cheese? 🤔
This! This is the answer.
Using flavored cheese is one of my favorite shortcuts for an easy dinner with big flavor. After the success of my Truffle Cheese Pasta and Smoky Tomato Gnocchi, I thought it was time to pay some attention to chili cheddar (you can use pepper jack if you’re in the US).
This dish starts with orange roasted broccoli… Yes, orange. It’s good! Why are we always cooking with lemons when oranges exist?! The chili cheddar gives our creamy sauce a deep flavor and a spicy kick, while the orange adds some brightness. I am amazed by how the inexpensive additions of orange and chili cheese give this dish such a fun and unique flavor with no extra effort.
This is an easy weeknight meal
I love the relaxed the workflow for this recipe and it’s almost a one pan recipe (you only have to cook the pasta in a separate pan).
We roast the broccoli then add the rest of our ingredients to the same pan. The sauce forms as we mix everything together. Minimal clean up! It can even be ready in 30 minutes if you stagger your prep by getting the broccoli roasting before you gather the remaining ingredients.
Ingredients and Cooking Tips
- Chili Cheddar or Pepper Jack. I am using Aldi’s chili cheddar here but I’ve tested this recipe with a couple of other brands. They can really vary in their spiciness. If you are using one that is labelled as “hot”, I would recommend that you use half the amount and then add some normal cheddar to make up the remaining volume. If it’s “Mild” or “Medium” you can stick to the recipe.
- If you can’t get any chili cheese or pepper jack, you could use normal cheddar and add some sliced chili to the broccoli while it’s roasting and/or chili flakes (added to the broccoli when it’s finished, alongside the orange zest).
- Parmesan, Pecorino or Italian hard cheese: A strong salty hard cheese ramps up the flavor here. If you’re vegetarian, you just want to choose something made without animal rennet which is common in these Italian cheeses (within the EU, this rules out actual parmesan). If you don’t have any of this kind of cheese, you can use cheddar (don’t use more chili cheddar – just normal cheddar) if you need to, but make sure to add some extra salt to the dish to compensate.
- One head of broccoli and some garlic to roast it in. So far so normal, but to make the broccoli extra perfect, we add in the step of smashing down the florets with a potato masher halfway through roasting. This is totally optional but I think it’s worthwhile: it increases the surface area of the broccoli and makes it a little extra crispy. It also means the florets cook a little more evenly, instead of some of the branches getting singed.
- An orange. I know it’s unusual, but try it if you can! You will zest the orange, so make sure it’s unwaxed. If the idea of orange in this recipe is just not working for you, you can swap in lemon.
- Double / heavy cream : we use just enough to help it come together to form a sauce. Single cream or half and half should be fine to swap in, you may just use more of it.
- Pasta: I love orecchiette or farfalle for this dish, but you can’t go too wrong. I prefer short shapes because of how much easier it is to mix everything together in the pan, but you could use a long shape if you need to.
Spicy Cheese Pasta with Orange Broccoli
- olive oil, for cooking
- 1 head broccoli
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 orange, 1/4 of the zest, 1/2 of the juice
- 125 g (4.5 oz) chili cheese or pepper jack, grated
- 50 g (1.75 oz) pecorino, parmesan or Italian hard cheese, grated
- 80 ml (⅓ cups) double or heavy cream
- 250 g (9 oz) pasta
- Optional: green herbs for serving
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 360F.
- Toss your broccoli florets with the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and just enough olive oil to coat them. Scatter in a deep baking dish and place in the oven for 15 minutes.olive oil, 1 head broccoli, 3 cloves garlic
- Remove from the oven and use a potato masher to flatten and smash the florets a little bit – this increases their surface area to get them a little crisper, and stops some of the flyaway bits from getting too singed. Once you've done this, flip and mix the florets around. Place back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
- At this point, start your pasta boiling according to package instructions.250 g pasta
- Once the broccoli is ready (it should be browned on the edges and a bit crispy), remove it from the oven and turn the oven off. Immediately add the orange zest to the pan and mix it through, then squeeze most of the juice from 1/2 of the orange into the pan too (just what you can squeeze out easily). Mix it around so the broccoli can absorb it.1 orange
- Add the cream and both of the cheeses. Mix through. It will likely not start melting quite yet, but once you add the hot pasta it will. If the pasta isn't ready yet, you can place the pan back in the oven (the oven should be off, but the residual heat will keep everything warm and start to melt the cheese.)125 g chili cheese or pepper jack, 80 ml double or heavy cream, 50 g pecorino, parmesan or Italian hard cheese
- Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a little bit of the cooking water and then drain. Add the pasta to the pan and mix through. The cheese should start to melt and form a creamy sauce. Add pasta cooking water to thin out as needed, and additional cream if you want the sauce more rich and creamy.
- Add any additional garnishes (green herbs and/or a little extra orange zest) and serve.