Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
Broccoli Rabe or Rappini is a green cruciferous vegetable slightly bitter in taste. While its generally known as a cuisine associate with Southern Italy. It is delicious and loaded with many health benefits including vitamins A, C, K, antioxidants, fiber and detoxification properties.
So what do you do with it? How do you eat it? For me, it is fine all by itself, cooked for just a few minutes in garlic and olive oil, perhaps some red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. A wedge of fresh lemon or grated cheese works well too.
You can also toss it with the pasta of your choice, the shorter ones work best such as penne, rigati, cavatelli or whatever your preference.
When you see it on restaurant menus you often see it paired with crumbled Italian sausage. Sometimes you see all three on the same plate, broccoli rabe, pasta, crumbled sausage. Sometimes its even put in soup as a variation of escarole and beans. There are many choices.
You start by cutting off the bottom half of the bunch. This part will not cook as fast as the top leafy part and it becomes too tough to chew. It is edible, but in order to get it tender, you will have to overcook the top leafy part. So, cut off the bottom and either save it for soup, chop it up for other dishes, puree it or something else, or, simply discard it. I like the crunchiness of the stalk but not too much of it. So, cutting it about halfway down is about right for my taste.
Most of the time it is pre-washed, especially if you buy it in a bag not a stalk. I still soak it in cold water in a bowl. It is not sandy like escarole but if there is anything to be washed away, this will do. This also helps if you are going to cook it alone, this water will help steam it.
But being a purist, I simply like to get a pan or pot with a lid. I like it with a clear lid so I can keep an eye on it. I slowly heat some extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flake and a pinch of salt until the garlic gets fragrant. I soak the rappini in cold water. If you soak it in water, you are going to use that water to steam it. Just soak, drain and whatever the rappini retains is what you put into the pot USING CAUTION. Remember, the oil is hot, and you don’t want that splashing in your face when you add the wet broccoli rabe to the pan. Proceed with caution, do it slowly and gently. Put the lid on and give it a shake.
- 1 Bunch of Broccoli Rabe Rappini (about 1 pound)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lemon, Grated Cheese (Optional)
As it cooks you will see it go in phases, from being reduced in half to almost a quarter of the volume. I like it to still be a bit bright green, crunchy on the stems but tender on the leaf.
If you are going to use this to toss with pasta, you definitely want to pull it out somewhere in between because when you add the pasta, it is going to cook for another minute or two more. Obviously the pasta should be fully cooked, as should the sausage be before you combine all three into the pan with the rapini.
In this case, I am eating it all by itself, so when it looks like this, that is when I pull it out, put it on the plate and depending on my mood I add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, lemon, or grated cheese, but not usually all three. You could, but like I said this is delicious on its own.
For me, this is easily dinner, especially if accompanied by a few slices of good crusty Italian bread or baguette. If you have leftovers, just toss it with some cooked pasta and it is even better. Don’t forget the wine, because remember, broccoli rabe has nutrients to detoxify the liver too. It is one of the most perfect vegetables you can find.