Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Have you ever had broccoli rabe (pronounced “rahb” or “rah-bee” depending on where you are from)? I have sort of a love hate relationship with it. It looks like broccoli, but it doesn’t taste like it. Broccoli rabe can sometimes be so bitter, even with blanching, there’s no amount of vinegar or bacon that can save it.

But bitterness heightens flavors (hence the purpose of parsley). Your tongue can distinguish 4 basic tastes—sour, bitter, sweet, and salty—so if you combine the somewhat bitter rabe with strong tastes from the other groups, the result can be like happy fireworks in your mouth.

Broccoli Rabe

Rabe combined with sun-dried tomatoes is a deli classic, the tomatoes offering a sweet intense counter-note to the rabe. Still, it’s not for everyone, so be warned.

This recipe tosses lightly sautéed broccoli rabe with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and penne pasta. So good! We devoured it.

Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun Dried Tomatoes Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish

Feel free to toss in a few salty black olives, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, and or a dash of lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (a large bunch) broccoli rabe, rinsed, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped (about 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped)
  • 2 ounces sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil), roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces penne pasta (or other favorite short pasta)
  • 1/2 ounce freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • More salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

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1 Bring two large pots (4-quart pots filled at least half-way) of water to a boil, one pot for blanching the broccoli rabe, the other for the pasta. Whichever pot comes to a boil first, in place the broccoli rabe. Blanch only for one minute, then use a slotted spoon to remove the rabe from the hot water to a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the rabe and pat dry with paper towels.

2 Typically penne pasta takes about 10 minutes to cook to al dente. So start the pasta before you start sautéing the rabe. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add a tablespoon of salt to it, let the salt dissolve, then add the pasta. Once the water returns to a boil, start the timer. Let the pasta cook, at a rolling boil, uncovered, for whatever time is necessary to cook it to al dente, cooked through but still a little firm.

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3 Once the pasta is in the water, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium to medium high heat. Add the chopped garlic and the red chile flakes. Cook until the garlic just begins to brown at the edges. Then add to the pan the blanched broccoli rabe. Toss to coat with the olive oil, chile flakes, and garlic. Sprinkle with salt.

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4 Cook the broccoli rabe about 5 minutes, until just tender. Stir in the chopped sun dried tomatoes. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the rabe. Sprinkle everything with black pepper and the grated Parmesan cheese. Toss to combine.

Serve immediately.

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Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Showing 4 of 18 Comments

  • Craig

    I agree this dish couldn’t be more perfect with the combination of the bitter bite of broccoli rabe, chewy sweet sun dried tomatoes, spicy red pepper flakes and salty grated Parmesan. To cut down on prep time, I also have substituted the broccoli rabe with bagged, pre-washed and cut kale, which give a similar bite to the dish but allows you to skip the step of blanching.

  • Karen

    We used swiss chard instead of rapini. After a few frosts, it has been delectable!

  • Can't live without

    I have a very similar recipe, obtained from an Italian friend. I also add a couple of anchovy fillets in the oil along with garlic and let them ‘melt’. I takes the flavor to an entirely new level.I also use mini shell pasta, which I think holds lot more flavor.

  • sylvia

    Just made this last night. It was fantastic! I wanted to use up some leftover bacon and cherry tomatoes so I sauteed the broccoli rabe with the bacon and added the tomatoes. The sweet acidity complemented the bitter of the rabe. The addition of sun dried tomatoes was the kicker! I also added chicken tenderloin and made a small amount of white sauce with butter, flour, and parmesan cheese in the pan I cooked the chicken. It wasn’t necessary but tied the dish together.

  • meppybn

    LOOOOOVE broccoli rabe – have grown it myself very successfully too and have never found it bitter – much nicer than reg. broccoli :) Try tossing some crushed red peppers over as well :) :)

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