Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions

Have you ever cooked with broccoli rabe (usually pronounced “rob”, also known as rapini)? It sort of looks like broccolini or Chinese broccoli, with longish stems, small green florets, and lots of leaves. It’s actually more related to turnips than to broccoli, and tastes a little like mustard greens, slightly bitter but more nutty. Slightly bitter usually that is. The first time I cooked broccoli rabe it must have been really late in the season, because those greens were so bitter none of us (hardened bitter greens eaters that we are) could take more than one bite. Several chefs I questioned about the bitterness suggested blanching the rabe first to take the edge off the bitterness. So I’ve done that here, though if you like the bite of rabe, or you are working with tender young plants, you can skip that step. I also mixed in some slightly caramelized onions, to add some sweetness to balance the bitter of the green. Hmm, all this talk of “bitter”, I’m not doing a great job selling you on rabe am I! We love greens, and we loved this. Not only did I serve this rabe to my parents and they gobbled it right up, but I had a bunch leftover which I ate cold, for lunch, the next day. If something tastes just as good cold as it did hot, you know it’s good.

Do you have a favorite way of preparing broccoli rabe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.
Yum

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into slivers, lengthwise (with the grain)
  • 1 large bunch of broccoli rabe (raab, rapini), rinsed and cut into 2-inch long pieces
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

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1 Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, spread out in a thin layer. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened and then lightly browned. (Tip: to speed up the caramelization process you can sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the onions.) If the onions start to dry out at all, lower the heat (you can add a little water to them too.) They should brown, but not get dried out.

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2 After you start the onions, bring a large pot of water to a boil. The onions take at least 15 minute to cook, so you'll have time to get the water boiling. Salt the water (about a tablespoon of salt for 3 quarts of water). Prepare an ice bath, fill a large bowl half way with ice water. Add the rabe to the boiling water. Blanch for 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the boiling water and put in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Shocking the rabe with ice water will also help keep the rabe bright green colored.

Note that some people blanch their rabe, some do not. Rabe can be rather bitter, so blanching will help take the edge off of the bitterness. If your rabe isn't particularly bitter, or you like bitter greens, you can easily skip this blanching step.

Drain the ice water from the rabe. Use a clean tea towel to gently wring out the excess moisture from the rabe.

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3 Once the onions are lightly browned, remove them from the pan to a bowl. Using the same pan, add another Tbsp of olive oil and heat the pan on high heat. Add the chili flakes. Once the chili flakes start to sizzle, add the garlic. Once the garlic just starts to brown at the edges add the broccoli rabe and the onions. Toss the rabe mixture so that it gets well coated with the olive oil. Cook on high heat until most of the moisture is gone, about 5 minutes if you blanched first, a minute or too longer if you skipped the blanching.

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Links:

Sautéed broccoli rabe with sun-dried tomatoes from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen
Pizza with broccoli rabe and roasted onions from Deb of Smitten Kitchen
Meatball soup with broccoli rabe from Alanna of Kitchen Parade
Roasted spaghetti squash with broccoli rabe from Dani Spies
Chorizo, chickpeas, and broccoli rabe from Revel and Feast
You don't have to be Italian to eat broccoli rabe - story and recipes by food blogger Susan Russo for NPR

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Showing 4 of 30 Comments

  • Rossella

    Ha! These are “BROCCOLETTI”, called so in Rome where we prepare them with Italian sausage: terribly easy to prepare, this is a budget dish where the drippings from the sausage should give taste to the veggies with no addition of more grease.
    Broccoletti (Cime di Rapa for the rest of Italy) are so tasty you can just boil them to tenderize them and then put them in a hot skillet with sizzling olive oil (you can brown a couple of garlic cloves in the oil first).
    These re-fried broccoletti make a terrific sandwich with ciabatta + a thick slice of pecorino romano :)

  • Koek!

    I am a greens whore, but have never seen these. they look like a cross between spinach and broccoli… Making me hungry! I like to prepare most greens very simply (and similarly), with garlic and olive oil, and squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
    Robyn

  • honeybee

    I love broccoli rabe! Unfortunately, it’s only available seasonally here in Europe, so I don’t get to enjoy it as much as I’d like.

    My favorite ways of cooking it are:

    1. Sauteed, then mixed with orrichetti pasta, sundried tomatoes and black olives with a good lashing of extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese and a few red pepper flakes

    2. Sauteed plain in some garlic infused olive oil.

    Love the idea of combining it with sundried tomatoes, pasta, and olives. Thanks! ~Elise

  • Joanne

    Ever since I can remember my favorite dish that my mom cooked was ziti with crumbled Italian sausage and broccoli rabe sauteed in an olive oil sauce. Amazing.

    That’s usually how I prepare it but I like the sound of it with caramelized onions! And yes, it’s bitter. But in a GOOD way.

    Rabe would be great with Italian sausage, yum. ~Elise

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