Rapini, also known in some places as Broccoli Rabe, or even Broccoli Raab, has a strong flavor and it is known as a bitter green. Because of this, it is best served with other assertive flavors. Our recipe, as we make it in our cooking classes, features garlic and hot chili pepper flakes, but another great way to serve Rapini is with spicy sausage. In fact, sausage could be an excellent addition to this recipe if you are looking for a great one dish meal.
Rapini is part of the cruciferous vegetable family that includes its cousin, broccoli. Both vegetables have tight flower heads, but the stems of rapini are much thinner, though still tough and in need of generous trimming. Rapini also features long, spiky leaves that should be included in cooking. This vegetable grows well in the Mediterranean climates of France and Italy, and it is becoming more and more popular in similar climes, such as California and parts of Australia.
This is a simple recipe that serves 4 to 6 people as a first course or side dish. If you love rapini as we do, I think this recipe will be an excellent addition to your repertoire, and if you haven’t tried this healthful green yet, I hope you will be inspired to so now.
A note: According to Ocean Mist, American growers of Rapini, this is the best way to clean and blanch Rapini: “Remove the “skirt” that holds the bunch of rapini together. Rinse well in plenty of cold water. Trim base of stems and discard. Cut the rest of the stems, leaves and tops crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Most cooks like to blanch the rapini before cooking, to reduce its bitterness.
To blanch: Drop cut rapini into a large pot of boiling, salted water and let it boil for 2 to 3 minutes…. If you’ll be serving the rapini with pasta, save the blanching water to cook the pasta. And, if you won’t be cooking the rapini right away, cool it by plunging it into an ice water bath. Drain well.”
2 bunches Rapini, cleaned and blanched as per above
Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, smashed and left whole for easy removal
Red pepper flakes to taste
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Pound Penne Pasta, cooked al dente
1 ladle hot pasta water
Sauté the garlic in the Olive Oil until tender, then add the blanched Rapini, and season with the salt and red pepper flakes. I did not name an amount of oil, because I have found that the rapini sometimes absorbs the oil to a greater or lesser extent. In any case, you will want the pasta to be adequately dressed, but not sopping with oil.
Just as the pasta finishes cooking, add the butter to the Rapini, followed quickly by the ladle of hot water. Stir these, and the sauce will blend beautifully and not separate. Add the drained pasta to the cooked Rapini, remove the garlic, adjust seasonings, and serve hot.