Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans

Side DishQuick and EasyVegetarianBean

Bright, bitter and creamy, this recipe for Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans works equally well as a side dish alongside a roasted chicken or as a standalone vegetarian main.

Photography Credit: Sheryl Julian

Years ago, I was with a group of friends talking about the dishes that our mothers made all the time and that became our idea of comfort food. One of the women said that her Italian-American mom made broccoli rabe and cooked it with lots of lemon and white beans.

We all quizzed her like crazy: Was this a dish her grandmother had made, too? (Yes!) Was it a weeknight dish? (Yes!) Did her mom make it for holidays? (Yes!)

We were so intrigued that something bitter, tart, and garlicky would be considered comfort food—the rest of us had been thinking about creamy, toasty, cheese-y things!

She told us how to make this broccoli rabe dish, convincing us that a mildly bitter green cooked in a skillet with hot oil would be something that we, too, would love. So I went home and made the dish, and I’ve been making it ever since.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon

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Broccoli rabe (also known as broccoli de rape and rapini) looks similar to the broccoli we all know, but it has pencil-thin stalks, lots of leaves, and tiny florets.

This green vegetable has an assertive bitter flavor when raw, but a quick blanch in boiling water helps tame the flavor, leaving just a hint. For this recipe, cut the thicker stalks in half lengthwise and then cut them into shorter lengths to help them blanch more quickly and make them easier to eat.

White beans with rapini and white beansCOOKING WITH BROCCOLI RABE

To serve this broccoli rabe, I like to sauté lemon slices in olive oil to tenderize them—they soak up all the oil in the pan and taste delicious. Then I add canned white beans, sliced garlic, and crushed red pepper. (Want to make your beans from scratch? Here’s how to make them on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker!)

Finally, I return the blanched rabe to the pan and let everything cook for a few minutes to bring the flavors all together.

As delicious as this recipe is, broccoli rabe never really became one of my own comfort foods—I didn’t grow up on it like my friend did. However, this recipe with lemons and beans has become a go-to side dish. I make it whenever I want an interesting green to serve with something simple like pork chops or roast chicken.



Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup water, or more if needed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
  • Extra crushed red pepper, for serving


1 Prepare the broccoli rabe: Cut any thick stems (with leaves still attached) in half lengthwise. Then cut all the stems into 4-inch pieces.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon

2 Blanch the broccoli rabe: Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook for 1 minute, turning them in the water occasionally so they cook evenly.

Drain and rinse with very cold water until the broccoli is no longer warm. Pat dry with paper towels.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon

2 Cook the lemon slices: In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the lemon slices, overlapping if necessary, and cook without disturbing for 2 minutes. Turn and cook the other sides for 2 minutes more. The slices should be browned in spots. Transfer to a clean plate.

Broccoli Rabe with White Beans and Lemon

3 Warm the white beans: In the same skillet over medium heat (no need to clean), heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic, white beans, red pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 minute more.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon warm the beans

4 Add the broccoli rabe to the pan and cook: Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until it is tender when the stems are pierced with the tip of a knife. During cooking, add more water if the pan seems dry. Stir in the lemon slices and turn them in the mixture until the slices are just heated through.

Broccoli Rabe with White Beans and Lemon cook the broccoli

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Serve with lemon and red pepper.

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Sheryl Julian

Sheryl Julian is an award-winning writer, editor, and food stylist. She is the former food editor of The Boston Globe, co-author of The Way We Cook, and editor of The New Boston Globe Cookbook. Her food sections won Best Newspaper Food Coverage from the Association of Food Journalists in 2015.

More from Sheryl

8 Comments / Reviews

No ImageLemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Nadia

    Just loved it! I used chickpeas instead of beans, and I skipped the spinach. Added some harissa paste to the onion. Served with some parmesan shavings!! Have already shared this page. The lemon made it!


  2. pete mack

    This is a nice base recipe for Italian style greens with white beans. I added onion and bacon, replaced the greens with kale and wilted radicchio (which is what we had available) and served it over cheesy polenta. Very popular. Really like using braised lemon in this.


  3. D

    Tastes great with anchovies! :)


  4. Sassy

    I make something similar using the abundance of kale and Swiss chard that hubby grows…and understand why your friend would say it’s a comfort food, it’s one of mine too lol. Never thought to try broccoli Rabe with it, but I sure will now. Thanks so much.

  5. Vanessa

    Made this tonight for dinner. I have never cooked lemon slices before and was pleasantly surprised at how it intensified the lemon. I will use these cooked lemons in a recipe calling for preserved lemons if I didn’t have them on hand because WOW the lemony tartness really popped by cooking them! I also only needed a few shakes of red pepper flakes, the amount called for would have been a bit much for me. Nice side, but was a great meal by itself tonight.


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Lemon Broccoli Rabe with White BeansLemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans