Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

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

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Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun Dried Tomatoes Recipe

  • 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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22 Comments

  1. Smith & Ratliff

    I love broccoli rabe. The more bitter, the better. Last night, I had a sliced baguette topped with blanced broccoli rabe, chopped, fresh ricotta and just a sprinkle of sea salt. Heaven. -LR

  2. Jen

    I just ate this dish at California Pizza Kitchen this week. It was pretty good, although their version is a little greasy for my taste, and a little light on the broccoli rabe if you ask me. It was still pretty good so I can just imagine how much better a home cooked version would be. I had it with goat cheese and that was a nice addition, I can think of lots of variations. It’s funny, I was thinking while I was eating it that it should have pine nuts – and I notice that’s one of your suggestions :)

  3. Patricia

    This looks like a great idea! My husband LOVES broccoli rabe, but we usually have it as a side. I am always looking for ways to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet – this looks perfect. I have also used broccoli rabe and sausage in homemade calzones – nice contrast of flavors, especially with the creamy riccotta.
    Thanks for another great idea!!

  4. Christina Bjorndahl

    Looks delicious!

    Here’s a fantastic use for rapini: Cook rapini in salted boiling water, and drain well. Then use as in a sandwich with toasted rye bread and brie cheese. It’s unbelievably good…

  5. laloca

    four basic tastes? what of umami?

    Okay, okay, yes there are actually five basic “tastes”, but it’s hard to describe the actual “taste” of umami. Umami makes what you are eating taste better. By the way, with this recipe, you’ll get your umami from the sun dried tomatoes. ~Elise

  6. MooIMadeIt

    Yay can’t wait to try this. I got super excited the other day when I realised that our brocolli rabe was the same vegetable as what my lovely 60 year old Italian friend Lena calls Cime Rapa. She looooves it!

  7. Louann

    Italian households have been eating broccoli rabe (rapini) for eons! The more bitter, the better! It’s delicious sauteed with olive oil and garlic and paired with Italian sausage.

  8. Ali

    I first had broccoli rabe when my grandmother cooked it for us. I don’t remember how she prepared it but I do remember my strong dislike for it. I don’t think any of us really enjoyed it. So far the only way I’ve enjoyed it is in a Rachael Ray recipe (of all things!). After blanching it’s served with cooked sausage and gnocchi.
    I’ll have to try it this way soon!

  9. almostveg

    I love broccoli rabe, but haven’t paired it with sundried tomatoes. I used it on a pizza with a tomato sauce base and it was very good. Will definitely try this recipe. The pizza recipe is at http://omnivore-almostveg.blogspot.com/2011/05/pizza-night-with-friends.html

  10. Dave

    Broccoli raab is of the turnip family. If it is overly bitter it’s probably because it isn’t as fresh as it should be. It should never be wilted or yellowish. Fresh raab is a delight. I have it in my garden and eat it frequently. It is productive and versatile, useful in just about any dish imaginable from risotto’s to quesidilla’s. my .02

    I’m guessing that it might just be more mature. I’ve had perfectly green, fresh, rabe and it’s still been bitter. The rabe I made this dish with was gorgeous. If it’s related to turnips, that’s probably it. Turnips are almost sweet when they are small and young, picked early in the season. As the turnips mature with the season, they get bigger and more bitter. ~Elise

  11. Zailinah

    When I was young, my mum used to say that the bitter the veggie, the better it is for your health. I’ve not heard of broccoli rabe but I should pay more attention to see if they have it in the local store here. I’d like to try this recipe if I can find it cos I think mixing it with sun dried tomatoes would do the trick of ‘reducing’ its bitterness.

  12. laura

    Would it be okay to boil the pasta in the same water used to blanch the broccoli rabe? Wasn’t sure if that would make the pasta bitter, but I’m always looking for ways to wash less dishes!

    Hmm, haven’t tried that. If you do, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  13. Gloria

    I love rapini (rabe, whatever). If I’m not in the mood for bitterness though, or need to tame it for whatever reason, I just cook the rapini longer. Braised with some chicken stock and garlic, maybe some crushed red peppers, it gets sweeter and mellow the way garlic does when you roast it.

  14. Marzia

    I grew up in the States, but have since returned to Italy. I now find it strange to hear Broccoli “Rape” being called bitter. I’ve never once found them bitter here. They have a definite “mustardy” taste, as Dave stated, but are definitely milder. I do, however, remember not liking them, or spinach, when living in the US. They were both too bitter for my taste. I’m delighted that neither vegetable is bitter here… perhaps a different cultivar… no matter, “Rape” are great! alone, cooked with pastas, and absolutely wonderful sauteed with olive oil, canellini beans, and chillie pepper flakes.

  15. Krista

    Woohoo! Saw it today – made it tonight.

    It is a keeper.

  16. 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 :) :)

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Karen

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

  20. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    I have had broccoli rabe before. Usually paired with italian sausage over pasta. I am thinking broccoli rabe + sun dried tomatoes + italian sausage would be a super tasty combo.

  21. SuperMomWannabe

    This looks fabulous! I love pasta and I love sun dried tomatoes!

  22. huntdonald

    YUM YUM YUM!! My stomach just audibly growled at my desk. I can’t wait to try this, so perfect for this cold, wet weather in the city

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