Why top Dallas restaurants are cooking with this green vegetable right now

Broccoli rabe may not be in your cooking repertoire yet — but it should be. Also known as rapini, the pleasantly bitter vegetable makes a bold side dish when seasoned with garlic and chile flakes, and it enlivens heartier dishes from pastas to panini. It plays well with Italian sausage, pork and white beans, and is a star vegetable in Italian Wedding Soup.

At Sachet restaurant in Dallas, broccoli rabe’s earthy bite is the perfect foil for sweet, fennel-kissed sausage with orecchiette pasta. The restaurant shared its recipe (below) for this classic Calabrian dish — a quick fix for weeknight suppers or entertaining.

Jimmy’s Food Store incorporates broccoli rabe in an Italian sausage (sold raw). The deli also adds boiled broccoli rabe to a Philly Sandwich stuffed with porchetta, pickled Calabrian peppers and molten provolone, served with a beef jus for dipping (you’ll want extra napkins).

Inspired by these tasty flavor combos, we played with broccoli rabe in our kitchen and found more ways to enjoy it. We love the contrast of the vegetable’s sharpness with creamy ricotta, burrata and goat cheese, as well as grated Pecorino Romano. Boiled briefly, broccoli rabe also makes a savory base for a rich-textured pesto, to toss with pasta or spread on crostini.

With it’s green florets, buds, and leafy, slender stalks, broccoli rabe looks like a member of the broccoli family — but it’s not; the vegetable is closer kin to turnip greens, which share its bitter profile. Although you might trim a smidge from the bottom of the stalks, every part of the harvested plant is edible.

Broccoli rabe is sold in 12- to 16-ounce bunches for between $2.99 and $3.50. It’s available year-round, but peak season in the warmest growing regions runs through April. You can find it at Whole Foods Market, Jimmy’s Food Store, Central Market, and Market Street.

Many traditional recipes call for blanching broccoli rabe/rapini before cooking it with other ingredients; this mellows the vegetable’s bitterness — which can be more pronounced in hot months. But many rapini fans skip the blanching and prefer the bolder, bitter flavor. We roasted raw broccoli rabe, tossed in olive oil, on a sheet pan in a hot oven for just 10 minutes. This yielded a wonderful variety of textures: crispy, crunchy leaves, delicate florets, and tender stalks.

Broccoli rabe’s nutty, earthy flavor isn’t the only compelling reason to add it to your vegetable rotation. The cruciferous vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as lutein, fiber, folate and antioxidants. Read on for our favorite broccoli rabe recipes.

Wine pairings for broccoli rabe dishes

At Sachet restaurant, sommelier and assistant manager Frank Horak recommends pairing the Orecchiette with Sausage and Rapini with a glass of vermentino, a white wine produced mainly on the island of Sardinia. “It’s similar in style to sauvignon blanc, but with a silkier texture and a green almond finish. Its acidity cuts through the richness of the dish,” he says. For red wine fans, Horak recommends a fruit forward wine with good acidity, such as a Nero d’Avola. “Its robust black fruit flavor, underlying tobacco note, and earthy profile go well with the pork,” he says.

Although vermentino would also pair well with our other featured recipes (Broccoli Rabe Pesto, Bruschetta with Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta, and the Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese), there are other crisp whites with good acidity to consider. A sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, an Assyrtiko from Santorini, or gruener veltliner, a versatile Austrian wine, are all good choices.

Broccoli rabe looks like a member of the broccoli family — but it’s not; the vegetable is...
Broccoli rabe looks like a member of the broccoli family — but it’s not; the vegetable is closer kin to turnip greens, which share its bitter profile. (Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Orecchiette with Sausage, Rapini and Chile

1 pound ground pork

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)

2 teaspoons fennel seed, toasted and ground (do not skip these steps; grind in a pepper mill, clean coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle)

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

1 1/2 pounds (about 2 bunches) rapini/broccoli rabe, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chicken bone broth with low sodium content (See Note)

1 pound orecchiette pasta

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving

Juice of half a lemon, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, minced garlic, salt, ground fennel seed, black pepper, and chile flakes to make a ground sausage. Set aside.

Prepare an ice bath in another large bowl. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add chopped rapini/broccoli rabe and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or cooking sieve, transfer broccoli rabe to the ice bath. (Reserve the pot of cooking water for the pasta). Drain and gently pat dry on kitchen towels.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Brown the pork sausage for 2 to 3 minutes, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks. Add bone broth and allow the sausage to finish cooking as the broth simmers and reduces down to about 1/4 cup.

Meanwhile, bring the reserved cooking water back to a boil and cook pasta for 1 minute less than the time recommended on the package directions. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the pasta in a colander.

Immediately transfer pasta to the skillet with the sausage. Add reserved broccoli rabe and combine. Stir in butter, grated cheese and reserved pasta cooking water, to achieve a nice sauce consistency. Remove from heat and stir in a squeeze of lemon. Taste, and add more chile flakes if desired. Serve immediately, topped with additional grated cheese.

Note: Bone broth is preferred since it has more body (from collagen) than commercial chicken stock. Most chicken bone broths are high in sodium, but it is important to choose one that’s not, or the dish will be too salty (we’ve seen levels exceeding 700 mg). Although Kitchen Basics brand is not labeled as low sodium, at 380 mg per cup it is significantly lower in sodium than others. If you can find an even lower sodium bone broth, use it. Jimmy’s Food Store and Sundrops sell Stocks and Bondy chicken bone broth, refrigerated. It’s made in Dallas, and more collagen-rich than most commercial products.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Sachet

Bruschetta with Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta
Bruschetta with Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta (Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chile

1 bunch broccoli rabe/rapini

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced (1 1/2 tablespoons)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

Coarse salt, to taste

1/2 lemon

Cut off any tough or brown ends from the broccoli rabe stalks (about 1/2 inch) and discard (many bunches are already trimmed). If preparing as a side dish, you can leave spears whole; if using as a component of another dish, coarsely chop. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath.

Add the rapini to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes (this tames the bitterness). Drain and immediately submerge in ice bath, to stop the cooking and set the color. Spread on kitchen towels and pat dry.

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 2 minutes); do not let garlic brown. Add chile flakes and stir for 20 to 30 seconds. Add the rapini and a little salt, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender — about 4 minutes if chopped, longer if whole (test a piece of stem for doneness; do not overcook or it will be mushy). Add a squeeze of lemon juice (about 1/2 tablespoon). Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with Italian sausages, roast meats, meatballs, meatloaf, or pasta dishes. May also be be used in sandwiches (sausage hoagie, Italian beef, or grilled cheese made with Fontina); topped with burrata and served with garlic bread; or in the bruschetta recipe that follows.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Bruschetta with Broccoli Rabe and Ricotta: Cut 3 or 4 large, 1/2-inch-thick slices of artisan bread or sourdough in half (or use 6 to 8 small slices of artisan bread). Brush with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted (watch closely!); flip and toast other side. Alternatively, you can grill the bread. Spread toasts liberally with a high quality, whole milk ricotta cheese, preferably hand dipped (Luzzi Hand-dipped Ricotta, sold at Jimmy’s Food Store, is outstanding). Mound chopped Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chile over ricotta and serve.

Source: Tina Danze

Broccoli Rabe Pesto with Pasta
Broccoli Rabe Pesto with Pasta (Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Broccoli Rabe Pesto with Pasta

1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted (may substitute pistachios or slivered almonds)

1/3 to 1/2 cup fruity, extra virgin olive oil

1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 cup loosely filled or 1/2 cup tightly packed, if using a fine, rasp grater), plus additional for serving

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

1 pound pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon coarse/kosher salt and broccoli rabe, using tongs to submerge. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until tender. Remove with a mesh strainer or tongs and rinse under cold water or immerse in ice water. Reserve the pot of cooking water to boil pasta. Drain and squeeze broccoli rabe with your hands to remove excess water (it should be moist, but not wet).

In a food processor, mince the garlic. Add 1/3 cup of the toasted nuts and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add broccoli rabe and process until chopped. Add 1/3 cup olive oil and process until incorporated and broccoli rabe is very finely chopped. Stir in cheese. Add coarsely ground pepper and salt to taste. If desired, add more olive oil. Scrape pesto into a large pasta bowl if using immediately (if making ahead of time, store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

Bring reserved cooking water back to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain pasta. Immediately toss with pesto. Add enough pasta water to thin pesto to desired consistency and to help bind the pesto to the pasta (anywhere from 2 to 5 tablespoons). Serve immediately, garnished with remaining 2 tablespoons chopped nuts and a liberal topping of grated cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Other uses for the pesto: spread pesto on crostini for an appetizer; use as a dip for crunchy red pepper strips or pita chips; use as a sandwich/panini spread, along with tomato and mozzarella, or sliced turkey.

Source: Tina Danze

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

1 bunch broccoli rabe/rapini, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

1/3 cup slivered sundried tomatoes

1/4 cup roughly chopped pitted kalamata olives

12 ounces pasta

1/3 cup pasta water

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, or to taste

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

4 ounces goat cheese

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon coarse/kosher salt and broccoli rabe. Cook for 2 minutes, or until tender. Remove with a mesh strainer and transfer to ice bath (reserve pot of cooking water for boiling pasta). Drain broccoli rabe and spread on towels to dry.

Bring the pot of cooking water back to a boil and cook pasta for one minute less than recommended in package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (1 1/2 to 2 minutes); do not let garlic brown. Add chile flakes and stir for 30 seconds. Add the rapini and a little salt, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender — about 4 minutes. Add sundried tomatoes and olives. Remove from heat temporarily, if pasta is still cooking.

When pasta is ready, reserve 1/3 cup of cooking water and drain pasta in a colander. Immediately transfer pasta to pan with broccoli rabe mixture, set over medium heat, along with butter, pasta cooking water and grated cheese. Stir until heated through and the liquids and cheese emulsify into a sauce that coats the pasta. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and zest. Serve in pasta bowls, with dollops of goat cheese on top.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Tina Danze

Roasted Broccoli Rabe

1 (12-ounce) bunch broccoli rabe/rapini, rinsed and dried

3 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, salt, and chile flakes. Add broccoli rabe and toss to coat thoroughly (we used our hands). Spread in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Place on rack in upper third of oven and roast until stems are tender and many leaves are browned and crispy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve as a side dish to Italian sausage roasted with red bell peppers and onions (which can be cooked on a separate sheet pan on lower oven rack, simultaneously with broccoli rabe for about 20 minutes, turning once).

Grill method: Preheat grill to medium high and oil the grill rack. Arrange broccoli rabe perpendicular to grill grate. Grill until seared but not blackened, for 4 to 5 minutes; using tongs, flip to grill the other side, about 3 to 4 minutes.


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