Rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, is delicious with garlic! Don’t miss my family’s authentic Italian recipe! It’s a great vegan side dish.
For someone who wouldn’t eat rapini as a kid, I sure love it now. All I need for a perfect lunch is a hunk of bread and a mound of these slightly bitter greens with garlic, sautéed in olive oil and accented with salt and red pepper flakes.
In case you’re not familiar with this Italian vegetable, I’m going to provide you with everything you need to know to buy, store, prep and cook rapini with garlic. First, let’s start with some background information.
What is it?
Why is it also called broccoli rabe?
Rapini is an Italian vegetable that eventually made its way to the United States. The Andy Boy company brought the seeds from Sicily to harvest in America, and the company named its product “Broccoli Rabe” (pronounced “broccoli rob”) in 1964.
Some regions in American call it “rapini,” and some refer to it as “broccoli rabe.”
Broccoli rabe vs. broccolini
You may be wondering about the difference between broccoli rabe and Broccolini. They’re two different vegetables.
Broccolini is a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli, so it’s not from the same family as rapini. Broccolini isn’t bitter like broccoli rabe and doesn’t have as many leaves.
Rapini is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It’s a great source of vitamins K and A, and contains vitamin C, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and folate.
These greens are full of fiber, which keep you full longer and aid in digestion.
If you’re wondering if broccoli rabe is healthy, the answer is yes! Rapini is a superfood.
Buying & storing
Broccoli rabe is available all year, but it’s in season during early Fall and winter. Look for bunches of rapini that are firm, sturdy and vibrantly green.
The florets should be closed tightly. If the leaves are wilting or turning yellow, don’t purchase them.
To store raw broccoli rabe, refrigerate it for up to three days in a loosely closed plastic bag. (Some say the raw vegetable will keep for up to five days, but I find it wilts after three days.)
How to prep it
You’ll need to rinse the rapini well to remove any dirt.
Next, you’ll cut off the tough, bottom sections of the broccoli rabe stems. If there are stems that are still very thick, you can pull off the leaves to cook and discard the thick stems. This is how it’s done in Naples.
It’s safe to eat the leaves, along with the florets and more tender parts of the rapini stalks.
How to cook it so it’s less bitter
Rapini has a bitter taste, but you can minimize that and turn it into one of your favorite greens. The secret to reducing bitterness is to blanch the broccoli rabe (briefly boil it) before cooking it further.
You’ll drain the greens well in a colander (affiliate link), pat them dry and sauté them in olive oil with garlic until tender. Add red pepper flakes, grab a hunk of crusty bread and dive into one of the best dishes of your life!
What to serve with it
But the vegetable also is fabulous with roasted pork loin and beef dishes such as braciole. In fact, after you sauté the broccoli rabe, you can cook a steak in the same pan, taking advantage of any remaining garlic-infused oil.
One extra tip just between us
One last note, or maybe warning, about broccoli rabe. (If you’re Italian, you probably know where I’m going with this.)
It’s a well-known fact that this vegetable…can give you un po’ di gas.
Just something to keep in mind when you’re thinking about having more than a couple of servings.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom (and Nonna); I mainly reduced the olive oil by half. Originally published on August 3, 2014 and updated now with new photos and text.)
Rapini (Broccoli Rabe) with Garlic
- 2 bunches rapini (broccoli rabe)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- black pepper
- 2 dashes red pepper flakes
- Fill a large pot about 2/3 full with salted water, enough to cover the rapini when you add it later. Place the pot on the stove with high heat and cover it.
- Rinse the greens well in cold water to remove any dirt. Cut off the bottom four inches of broccoli rabe stems. If you still have some stems that are thick, you can remove the leaves from them to use and then discard the thick stems. See notes for an easy way to remove the leaves as in Naples.
- Peel the garlic and slice it thinly, then set it aside.
- When the water is boiling, add the rapini to the pot. Wait for the water to come to a boil again, and when it does, leave the greens in for one minute longer. Drain the broccoli rabe and let it sit in the drainer in the sink.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and let it cook for a minute. Pat the rapini dry with a paper towel. Add the greens to the pan, turning them to coat with olive oil. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes or until done to your liking (stirring occasionally). Taste again for seasonings, and add red pepper flakes before serving.
- Make a fist around the bottom of a stem with your right hand.
- With your left hand, make a fist around the stem just above your right hand.
- Slide your left fist along the length of the stem (sliding to the left). Most of the leaves will pull off.