Broccoli rabe is one of those things that makes ordering anything it’s on, in, or served with a done deal. Our love for it runs deep—going back to childhood memories of Lou’s grandmother bringing down steaming plates, piled high with the sautéed green vegetable, studded with garlic and red pepper flakes, drizzled with olive oil.
If you’re not sure what exactly broccoli rabe is, it’s like broccoli’s slightly bitter, more interesting cousin. Slender and leafy, it has smaller florets and longer, skinnier stalks. We would probably say, if pressed, that it’s our favorite vegetable. Though it’s super common in Italian kitchens, it’s less so elsewhere. When cooked and seasoned well, it’s tender, tasty and the perfect compliment to any meat, fish, or starch. Pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage is a classic example of how to use it exceedingly well. But give us a bowl entirely consisting of garlicky, salty, spicy rabe with grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan, if you like) cheese: and we. are. set. Anything else served with or next to it is just the savory cherry on top.
While this recipe is super simple, there is a trick—if you can even call it that—which always ensures the broccoli rabe comes out tender and not stringy. When we make rabe for other people, the questions we get are mostly the same: 1. What is this? 2. Why is it so delicious? 3. How did you cook it? The answer to 1 you’ll find above, and answers to 2 & 3 are in the recipe below. Stringiness results from boiling or steaming, but parboil and then sauté and you’ve got what you’re (or especially we’re) looking for: the best broccoli rabe. Nothing fancy, but wholly delicious. As you can see below, the rest of the recipe is mostly “to taste.”
Extra garlic on ours, please.
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- A bunch of broccoli rabe
- 3 tbs olive oil + a drizzle to finish
- 4–5 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
- Chili flakes to taste
- Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese to taste (& garnish)
- Salt to taste
* After washing the broccoli rabe, let it drain in a colander or give it a spin in a salad spinner before roughly chopping.
* Fill a stock pot with enough salted water to cover the broccoli rabe and bring to a boil.
* Add the rabe and parboil for a few minutes until crisp-tender, not cooked through. Drain.
* Heat olive oil over medium low heat in a sauté pan large enough to cook the broccoli rabe without it getting too crowded. (Crowding causes steaming instead of sautéing.)
* Add a good pinch of the red chili flakes and the garlic to the warm oil. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and golden.
* Add the broccoli rabe, to the pan and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more salt, but don’t overdo it—keep in mind that the cheese that’s coming will add salt, as well. Cook for two or three minutes, or until the rabe is tender but not mushy.
* Transfer the vegetables to a serving plate, give them a good drizzle of olive oil, and garnish with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. Serve warm or at room temperature.
P.S. Leftovers (or even rabe right out of the pan): GREAT on sandwiches.
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