What is rapini? Also known as broccoli rabe, rapini belongs to the cruciferous, or cabbage, vegetable family and is highly nutritious as well as delicious. It is a cousin to other ‘super-veggies’ that include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, kale, and mustard seeds and is a great source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Being rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, particularly sulforaphane, these healthy greens have potential anti-cancer properties.
‘Rapini’ is actually a culinary term for the edible leaves, stems, and shoots of cruciferous crops. So you can eat every bit of this plant! This vegetable has thick tender stems, flower buds, and mild peppery leaves. Rapini can have a bitter edge to it which gives it it’s characteristic flavor. The bitterness, however, may vary bunch to bunch and in season, but is toned down when cooked. A long-standing favorite in Italian cuisine, rapini pairs well with pasta and polenta.
Here’s a simple 5-ingredient recipe that makes an easy one-pot entrée or side dish:
Fusilli with Rapini and Roasted Garlic
- 1 whole bulb of garlic
- 1 bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe)
- 1 lb. fusilli pasta (corkscrew)
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese
- Crushed red pepper to taste
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Slice 1/4 of an inch from the top of the garlic bulb and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake the bulb at 370 degrees for 30 minutes. Then set aside.
- Rinse the greens thoroughly, then cut 1/2″ from the stems of the rapini. Lay the bunch on its side and cut crosswise. Cut the stems no larger than 1/4″ wide and the leafy top almost 1″ wide.
- Steam rapini for several minutes until the greens are just tender.
- Save the water and add more water to the pot (need about 4 quarts). Bring water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until tender.
- While the pasta is cooking, remove skin from the garlic cloves and slice.
- Drain pasta in a colander when cooked. Turn the heat down to low.
- Using the same pasta pot, add the rapini and sliced garlic, and stir to combine. Add half of the olive oil (1 1/2 Tbsp.), crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Cook and toss until flavors have a chance to mingle.
- Add remaining olive oil (1 1/2 Tbsp.) and serve dressed with Parmesan cheese.