For the longest time I was totally intimidated by broccoli rabe (rapini). This wasn’t the sort of vegetable my mom raised me on; she was really more of a “peas and carrots kinds of mom” and for most of my life I was a “peas and carrots” kind of daughter. Thinking back though, it seems I had my first bite of broccoli rabe right around the time it exploded onto the restaurant scene (maybe five or six years ago?) It was love at first pleasantly pungent bite. While I couldn’t get enough of it at the restaurants, I had no idea how to cook broccoli rabe at home. I had given making it a go a few times but for all my effort all I ended up with was an extremely bitter mess with a texture that just wasn’t “there” as far as restaurant-quality goes. I soon became suspicious restaurants were getting their fabulous results by dousing broccoli rabe in globs of butter (as any chef can tell you butter does wonders for the taste of just about anything). Unwilling to eat tons of butter, I just sorta stopped eating broccoli rabe…that is until I learned the Italian secret to cooking it fast, fabulous and healthy.
A very close family friend, Joe Riti, who also happens to be an amazing authentic Italian cook, showed me the ropes on how to prepare the most fabulous broccoli rabe ever just over a year ago. I’ve been hooked ever since and I can confidently say broccoli rabe is now a staple on my weekly menu. The technique is so simple (watch the video below) and the results are so spectacular I can’t imagine why anyone would cook broccoli rabe any other way. Best of all, once it’s cooked it is incredibly versatile! I often make an entire lunch with a heaping serving of sautéed spicy broccoli rabe nestled between two slices of sprouted whole grain bread (by the way, this is an amazingly satisfying and filling lunch).
The recipe below is for an incredibly fast 8-ingredient (water doesn’t count!) “clean eating” healthy Italian meal that’s vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free (if you want to add dairy and a 9th ingredient just add the Parmesan cheese–if you do this the recipe will no longer be vegan but it will still be vegetarian). The whole meal takes approximately 12 minutes to prepare, start to finish. Delicious, fast-food style, healthy Italian whole foods eating doesn’t get any easier than this!
Spicy Broccoli Rabe over Quinoa Linguine with Pecan Crumb Topping
- 1 package (8 ounces) quinoa linguine (such as Ancient Harvest)
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini)
- 1 glug (about 1 tablespoon) extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
- Crushed red chile peppers, to taste
- Garlic powder, to taste
- 3/4 cup raw pecans
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
- Prepare Linguine per package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Rinse (but do not dry) the broccoli rabe. Remove the stems. Chop the broccoli rabe into thirds.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves; sauté 20-30 seconds. Working in batches, add the broccoli rabe to the skillet a little at a time, stir-frying after each addition. Season with salt to taste and add more oil if needed. Pour 1/4 cup of the water into the skillet after all of the broccoli rabe has been added. Let the broccoli rabe cook until the water evaporates and broccoli rabe condenses. Season with crushed red chile peppers and a generous amount of garlic powder. Continue to cook, adding more water if needed, until broccoli rabe is super tender. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
- Place the pecans in a mini food processor and pulse to make crumbs. Set aside.
- Assemble the meal: place a serving of pasta on each dish. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Top with broccoli rabe and pecan crumbs. Serve at once.