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!