Like my recent posting of grilled asparagus, this post is the basic method for cooking broccoli raab, also sometimes called broccoletti di rape, or rapini. It has multiple names, including rapine, rappi, rappje, turnip broccoli, tailcat, Italian or chicness broccoli, broccoli de rabe, Italtiona turnip, and turnip broccoli. Whew!
Broccoli raab is allotted only one recipe in “Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book” published in the 1970’s. Until recently it was fairly uncommon in both the UK and the US. I found her recipe under the section on turnips (and swedes?) with whom they are closely related. She recommended serving them cool with a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette, or hot in a similar way as the recipe below. I’m currently exploring the cookbook as part of an on-line cookbook book club (say that 10 times quickly!). You can read more posts inspired by the book on the website The Cookbook Guru.
This vegetable originates in the Mediterranean and China. It is a descendant from a wild herb and is found growing wild (as well as cultivated) in California, Arizona, New Jersey, Quebec and Ontario. Among the Chinese it is one of their most popular vegetables. Broccoli raab is grown as much for its long-standing, tasty, mustard like tops as for its multiple small florets.
Broccoli raab is a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium. It tastes a bit like broccoli but is more pungent with a nutty flavor and a slightly bitter taste.
When buying it at the grocers look for bright green leaves that are crisp and upright, not yellowed or wilted. Unlike broccoli you do not need to peel the stems. If the stems are large, start by sautéing them for a few minutes before adding the leaves to the pan. That will allow them to soften a bit.
How to Cook Broccoli Raab or Rapini
You can cook the leaves, stems and flower heads like broccoli (broil, stir-fry, braise, sauté, or steam). My preference is to blanch them briefly in boiling water (1-2 minutes) and then sauté with thinly sliced garlic and a chopped shallot, finishing with a couple of finely chopped anchovies or a teaspoon of anchovy paste seems to really fill out the umami flavor (a few dried red pepper flakes can also give a punch).
- Rinse and trim 1/4-inch from bottom of stems.
- Cut stalks crosswise into 2-inch pieces and drop them into salted (optional), boiling water.
- Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and remove with slotted spoon. Drain.
- Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.
- Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves and a finely chopped shallot; turn the heat down to medium and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until softened. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will turn bitter.
- Add the blanched broccoli raab/rapini to the skillet and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes until cooked. If the stalks were large, add and cook for a few minutes before adding the leaves.
- Optional – Add 2-3 finely chopped anchovies and a few dried red pepper flakes.
You could also toss the finished broccoli raab with some pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan. It’s delicious that way.