Broccoli Rabe Braised with Garlic, Red Pepper and Olive Oil
A vegetable that's easy to cook and a year-round favorite
- Servings: 4 to 6.
Sometimes called rabe or rapini, broccoli rabe is a leafy green vegetable that is popular in Italy, and increasingly also here. It's extremely healthy for us (full of beta carotene and vitamin C, among other good things) and has a slightly bitter taste that makes it delicious as a side dish on its own or else mixed with other ingredients, such as Italian sausage or pasta, most classically the little ear-shaped orecchiette.
Most people I know love broccoli rabe and react to a home cooked version with delight. I love it on its own as a vegetable, especially when the rest of the meal has some flavor that can stand up to it, as an osso buco or a pot roast. While some think of broccoli rabe as a winter vegetable, in fact it's available year-round and can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
There are many fancy recipes with lots of technique for cooking this leafy green. What's important to know is that the vegetable is not fragile and that it cooks easily and quickly, including the thick stalks. I've tried many recipes and find that the simplest way to cook it is also the best.
- One or two bunches of broccoli rabe (it cooks down a bit so anticipate that when deciding how much to make)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)
- Pinch of salt
- Carefully untie the bunch of broccoli rabe and while holding the bunch together with one hand, with the other cut off and discard the thick, coarser ends of the stalks.
- Pick through the leaves, discarding any that look unappetizing or yellow, and wash the remaining leaves, florets and stalks in a generous amount of cold, clear water, just as you'd do with spinach. Rinse several times until the water is totally clear.
- Lift the broccoli rabe out of the water and shake off any excess water, leaving a few droplets on the leaves.
- Use a vegetable peeler to trim off any rough surface on the remaining stalks so that you keep the stalks but what's there is tender.
- In a large pan with -- such as a large sauté pan or pot with a cover -- put the broccoli rabe into the dry pan. Add a pinch of salt. Do not add any oil yet (don't worry -- it won't stick). Cover and turn on medium heat.
- The water that remains on the leaves, helped by the cover on the pan, will let the broccoli rabe steam and soften. With a pair of tongs, occasionally give it a stir so that the rabe cooks evenly. If you're concerned it's too dry, add a tablespoon of water.
- In about 10 minutes the leaves and stalks will have softened and there will probably be a little excess water in the pan. Turn off the heat and remove the broccoli rabe from the pan, holding it for the next step, and draining off any water.
- Take the pan you've just cooked in and either quickly rinse it out or just use a paper towel to wipe out any remaining moisture and put it back on the stove.
- Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.
- Heat to medium and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook the garlic in the oil just to the point that it begins to soften and turn golden (don't over cook the garlic or else it will turn bitter!).
- Return the cooked broccoli rabe to the pan and turn to coat in the olive oil and garlic/red pepper mixture to finish cooking and to warm through.
- Serve immediately.
If you prefer to cook this ahead of time, you can either do the entire recipe and then carefully reheat (try not to over-cook it at the end or else you'll lose some of its bright flavor plus it will get mushy) or else just pre-cook the broccoli rabe and finish the last step, i.e., browning the garlic and combining with the steamed broccoli rabe, just before serving.