How many of you out there in We Are Never Full-land have never heard of Broccoli di Rape? Anyone who has heard of it but never saw or ate it? I ask this only because, after researching this delectable, delicious and healthy green, I discovered that it’s U.S. roots (or that the vast majority of the broccoli di rape crops) come mainly from the lovely state of New Jersey. Whoa-Whoa We’re Livin’ On a Prayer, Jersey? You talkin’ ta me, Jersey? Tony Soprano’s hometown and my home in the summertime, NEW JERSEY? Yup, that one. Hey, you learn something new every day.
It seems as though this leafy green descendant of a wild herb and close relative to the turnip is slowly gaining popularity in the US. Why a slow gain in popularity, I wondered? I guess I’ve taken this for granted being an Italian-American and growing up on Broccoli di Rape in the home and in my family’s favorite red-sauce joints all over Philly, Jersey and New York City. In fact, I think that sauted broccoli raab with lot’s-o-garlic and peperoncino would be part of my father’s last meal if he was on death row… Dad, if you’re out there, am I right?
Also known as cime di rapa in Italy, broccoli di rabe originated in the Mediterranean and China. In fact, it is one of the most popular vegetables with the Chinese (another “aka”- Chinese Broccoli), which is less bitter and looks a tad different than the Italian version. If you do a side-by-side comparison of regular broccoli to broccoli di rape, you’d notice that the latter is much leafier with smaller florets. You eat the entire thing, leaves and all and the taste is also much (in my opinion) tastier and a bit bitter. Supposedly the most bitter part is the stem, but I would never dare think of cutting those lovely stems completely off! Some people just don’t like broccoli di rape. I really can’t imagine why! If you’ve only had it a few times, give my recipe below a whirl. Adding lots of garlic, spicing it up and eating it with some slices of Italian sausage may change your mind. If that doesn’t tempt you, why not consider how unbelievably healthy it is for you? Rich in calcium, vitamin A, C, B2, protein AND fiber, broccoli di rape is also cancer-preventing and contains something that protects the heart, lungs and intestines.
Soooooo, maybe the four pieces of fatty, Italian sausage counter-acts that? Take it out if you’re a vegetarian and it’s still an amazing side-dish. Whatever you do, I beg you to just give it a try. I’m on a personal mission to convince more people to eat it – none of this ‘slowly gaining popularity’ in America! Some people prefer to boil or steam their broccoli raab, but after my many years of cooking it up, I’ve decided that the best and tastiest way of doing it is to follow my easy recipe below. You can eat this alone with some bread, slice up the sausage links and make it as a side-dish, or cut it up and throw it over some pasta (replace the kale in this earlier recipe with broccoli raab and you’ll be golden). Try it with our gnocchi, too. In posts to come, look out for more delicious broccoli di rape recipes!
I have also submitted this to Real Epicurean’s March “In The Bag” challenge. He was kind enough to let me slide by not using the purple-sprouting broccoli the contest calls for. Hey, broccoli di rape is pretty similar! Thanks, Scott.
- 4 Sweet Italian Sausage Links (leave out for a vegetarian recipe)
- 2 heads of broccoli di rape (cut off the bottom of each stalk – about 1 inch)
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
- fresh squeeze of lemon
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- dash of water
What to do:
- Cook your sausage so that each piece is browned all over and completely cooked inside. Remove and allow to cool on the side.
- Add more olive oil to the sausage fat that rendered. Add your garlic and saute very gently on low for about 10 minutes so that the flavor infuses the oil.
- Now add your dry broccoli raab to the pan with the oil and garlic.
- Toss it so that it evenly cooks. You will saute on medium for about 3 minutes or so.
- Now add just a little bit of hot water (maybe 1 to 2 tablespoons at most – you do not want any water left in the pan once it’s steamed) and cover your broccoli raab and allow to steam (add a few more spritz of water if necessary). Keep your heat on lowish-medium. Flip the greens with some tongs every minute or so. You will cook/steam for about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove your broccoli di rape, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on it, sprinkle with some peperoncino (and some Parmigiano cheese) and serve with your sausage (you can serve these cut into slices or whole). VOILA!
19 thoughts on “Broccoli di Rape/Broccoli Raab/Broccoli Rabe/Rapini – Whatever You Call It, Just Call It Delicious”
I LOVE broccoli rabe. When we lived in NYC, we ate it all the time. But since moving to St. Paul, we’ve found that it just isn’t so popular here and is actually quite hard to find. Your recipe is a trip down memory lane for me, and has inspired me to try to track down some broccoli rabe asap.
I like calling it rapini and it’s wonderful with garlic, chilis and oil or with orecchiete.
I never knew there were so many names for broccoli.
Another one to add to the list – tenderstem broccoli!
I’ll have two sausages and all of that gorgeous brocolli!
Amy, I’ll be sure to let you know next time we’re in NY…could possibly be a while, but hopefully sometime next year!
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i miss broccolli rabe, can not get that in the south. i was a bit shocked as well, i totally thought it was a common vegetable that you could get at the grocery store. when you grow up eating something regularly you get kind of jaded when you leave your hometown.
my family sits around talking about the proper way to prepare broccoli rape in depth and i’ve seen my uncle carlo interrogate waiters on the subject. this looks amazing and reminds me of home in providence, YUM!
Love, love, love the stuff. We like it the way you find it served in Rome– on pasta very similarly cooked as your recipe, but without the meat. 🙂
I think rapini requires pork to be good. I made it once and it was really bitter – not sure if it was because it was a bit old, or that’s just how it is, but I like Chinese broccoli better. But even though I know it’s bitter, I can never help picking some up when I see it at the store.
I thought that looked rather like Kai Lan (Chinese broccoli)! I never knew there’s an Italian variant.
Let’s not let the secret out and let the hoi poloi in on this wonderful food! Throw some golden raisins on it and that gives it a nice touch too. Great side to garlicky pork loin for a nice meal and use the leftover pork on a sandwhich on a crusty roll s and OMG provolone but don’t eat that in the office! How I love broccoli di rape! One time I ordered a sandwhich at this pseudo Italian joint and they tried to pass off regular broccoli as broccoli di rape. I sent it back. Don’t do that to me!
And here’s another green that’s great – mache. 3x the iron of spinach and just lovely in a salad. Very European. Nobody knows about that one either. Let em in the dark.
I grew up eating Broccoli di rape in Italy: My favorite vegetable, cooked like Amy describes, and in many other ways. When I lived up North I found them in the stores but they are not sold in New Orleans where I now live, and I miss them very much. I decided to plant their seeds in containers in my back yard. I hope it works, however the weather here may be a little too hot.
Water??? What kind of an Italian American are you? You should be using WINE when cooking!