What Is Broccoli Rabe?
Have you ever cooked with broccoli rabe (usually pronounced "rob" or "robbie", 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.
Blanch Broccoli Rabe to Remove Bitterness
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.
How to Serve Broccoli Rabe
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 love 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.
How to Buy and Store Broccoli Rabe
Look for broccoli rabe in early spring when it's in peak season. It should have bright green, crisp leaves, firm stalks, and dark green florets that are tightly closed. Avoid broccoli rabe with yellow leaves or flowers.
Store it in the refrigerator, unwashed in a plastic bag, for 3 to 5 days.
The Difference Between Broccoli Rabe and Broccolini
The names may sound similar, but broccoli rabe and broccolini are actually not even closely related as species. While broccolini is a derivative of broccoli, broccoli rabe -- which is also known as rapini, broccoletti, and broccoli raab -- is more closely related to the turnip. Broccoli rabe is distinguished by its bitter flavor and many leaves; broccolini has a mild, sweeter flavor and relatively few leaves.
Even More Ways to Enjoy Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin 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
- Freshly ground black pepper
Brown the onions:
Heat 2 tablespoons of 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.
Blanch the broccoli rabe:
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.
Sauté the rabe and onions with chili flakes and garlic:
Once the onions are lightly browned, remove them from the pan to a bowl. Using the same pan, add another tablespoon 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 two longer if you skipped the blanching.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to serve.