I think I had broccoli rabe for the first time at my friend Susi’s house in New York City in the early ‘90’s when I first migrated to the US. Susi has always had amazing parties at her place and the food is always fantastic. Thanks Susi and Merrith for being our friends! Too bad we now live so far apart. We miss you guys.
I looked broccoli rabe up on Wikipedia and they claim that among other things it is a popular vegetable in Portuguese cuisine. I have eaten Portuguese food at restaurants before but never saw broccoli rabe figuring in their menus. In Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, sadly, broccoli rabe is nowhere to be seen.
Well all I can say is that rabe or “rapini” as it’s called here in California is one of my favorite dark leafy green vegetable. I like the sharp, grassy, spicy and slightly bitter flavors. Steam it (Steven prefers boiling to reduce the bitterness), sauté it with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and you have a perfect side dish. Add pasta and some top notch parmesan cheese then you have an easy, nutritious and hearty meal.
When shopping for broccoli rabe, look for bunches with intact leaves and a reasonable amount of formed florets. Sometimes it comes with tiny yellow blossoms. That’s cool too. I don’t like it as much when it comes without florets. Less fresh broccoli rabe tends to look drier with the base of the stems split open and curling up and with wilted leaves. Try to avoid these.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
1 bunch of broccoli rabe, rinsed, bases of stems removed and remainder cut in halves
1lb orecchiette pasta
5 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper (pepperoncino) to taste
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional for vegans)
Boil a large pot of slightly salted water. Drop broccoli rabe in boiling water until al dente, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer it to a colander using a slotted spoon and then to a platter when fully drained. Pour orecchiette in the same water and cook pasta per package instructions. Stir pasta every 2-3 minutes to prevent sticking.
A few minutes before pasta is ready, heat olive oil in a wide bottom pan. Sauté garlic till fragrant (avoid burning) then add broccoli rabe, salt, and black pepper. Sauté for a couple of minutes more. Drain orecchiette and add to broccoli rabe pan. Stir.
Transfer to serving platter. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle crushed red pepper and freshly grated parmesan over everything. Voila!