How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

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Broccoli Rabe is appealingly bitter, with a peppery, mustardy flavor. It makes a terrific yet simple side dish.

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is one of my favorite vegetables of all time. It’s appealingly bitter, with a peppery, nutty, mustardy taste. Broccoli rabe is most often used in Italian cooking, commonly in pasta dishes and sometimes with sausage. It is usually very simply prepared, as it is here. It goes well with lemon, chili flakes, garlic, and other strong flavors because it can really stand up to those more robust seasonings.

Broccoli rabe is the perfect foil for dishes that have some richness or creaminess. Try serving it on the side of Cacio e Pepe, Air Fryer Breaded Pork Chops, baked chicken legs, or Chicken Sausage Pasta for some nice bright contrast.

Also, try Broccoli Rabe with Preserved Lemon, or Kohlrabi, Green Cabbage, and Broccoli Rabe Slaw.

Stirring broccoli rabe in pan with tongs.

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe: Broccoli Rabe is appealingly bitter, with a peppery, mustardy flavor. It makes a terrific yet simple side dish.

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Ingredients

  • Broccoli rabe – Broccoli rabe, or rapini in Italian, can be found amongst the greens at your supermarket. You’re looking for mature broccoli rabe, so the deeper the green, the better!
  • Onions – Sweet sautéed onions offset the bitterness of the broccoli rabe here.
  • Garlic Minced garlic cooks alongside the greens in this recipe to make this side as delicious and flavorful as possible.
  • Olive oil – Just enough to make sure nothing sticks to the pan; you don’t want to drown these greens in oil.
  • Salt and pepper – To taste.
  • Red pepper flakes – To give this dish a little bit of bite!

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

  1. Prepare the broccoli rabe: Cut the thick bottom part from the stem. Cut the remaining stalks, leaves, and florets into slices, about 1 inch thick. 
Woman placing fresh broccoli rabe in frying pan.
  1. Sauté the onions.
  2. Add garlic and broccoli rabe: Add the minced garlic, then the broccoli rabe. Saute for 3 minutes.
How to Cook Broccoli Rabe
  1. Steam: Add about ⅓ cup of liquid to the pan (you can also use vegetable or chicken broth for more flavor). Cover the pan, and allow the broccoli rabe to steam for about 5 minutes until it is as tender as you like it. Allow any extra water to evaporate by removing the lid.
  2. Serve.
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe in white pan with spoon.

FAQs

Do you need to blanch broccoli rabe?

Not with the little steaming technique included in this recipe. I add some water to the pan after the broccoli rabe has started cooking to help it cook faster and more evenly. This allows me to skip the blanching step.

How do you blanch broccoli rabe?

Blanching vegetables, or partially cooking them, means simply cooking them briefly in salted boiling water. This usually is followed by draining the vegetable and submerging it in a bath of cold or ice water to stop the cooking immediately and preserve the vegetable’s bright color. 

Blanching broccoli rabe has the advantage of softening some of the vegetable’s natural bitterness, which some people can find overpowering. The more mature the broccoli rabe is, the more bitter the flavor, for the most part. I happen to love the bitterness, so I often skip this step, but if you are looking for a milder flavor, this is a good step to keep in mind. Make sure you use a generous amount of water — about 3 quarts water to 1 pound of broccoli rabe — and also that you salt the water generously so the broccoli takes on some seasoning.

Is broccoli rabe the same as broccoli?

These two veggies don’t have much in common aside from their looks. Broccoli rabe (also called rapini) is actually named after broccoli because the tops of the more stringy green are reminiscent of broccoli heads, but the taste is totally different. Broccoli rabe is significantly more bitter than plain broccoli.

How do you pronounce broccoli rabe?

The age-old question… does the word “rabe” rhyme with “Abe” or “job“? Well, sorry to all the Abe fans out there, but “rabe” is pronounced just like “rob.” (The rules of English are murky.)

Tips and Variations

  • Remember that the broccoli rabe will continue to cook and soften a bit after you remove the vegetable from the heat, even after you turn it out of the pan into a serving dish.
  • You can add other ingredients to this dish to change up the flavor. Try sliced or halved olives, a sprinkle of feta or Parmesan cheese, some fresh herbs, like oregano, or minced red bell pepper. You may also choose to sprinkle in some balsamic vinegar at the end, which is a really nice counterpoint to the bitterness of the vegetable. A squeeze of fresh lemon at the end is also a nice finishing touch.

What to Serve With Broccoli Rabe

Pork Chops with Italian Salsa Verde on a platter with broccoli rabe and sweet potatoes.
Broccoli Rabe with Pork Chops and Italian Salsa Verde

How to Cook More Vegetables

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5 from 5 votes

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe is appealingly bitter, with a peppery, mustardy flavor. It makes a terrific yet simple side dish.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion (halved and thinly sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • Large pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions 

  • Use a sharp knife to cut the thick bottom part from the stem, about the bottom two inches. Cut the remaining stalks, leaves, and florets into slices about 1 inch across. You can chop it into smaller pieces if you like, which is nice if your broccoli rabe is large and mature, with bigger florets and leaves and thicker stems.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper halved and sliced, and sauté for about 8 minutes until the onion is softened and browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring occasionally. Then add the broccoli rabe and sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the red pepper flakes, add cup of water (or broth) to the pan, stir, cover the pan, and allow the broccoli rabe to cook for about 5 more minutes until it is done to your liking. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Notes

  • Remember that the broccoli rabe will continue to cook and soften a bit after you remove the vegetable from the heat, even after you turn it out of the pan into a serving dish.
  • You can add other ingredients to this dish to change up the flavor. Try sliced or halved olives, a sprinkle of feta or parmesan cheese, some fresh herbs, like oregano, or minced red bell pepper. You may also choose to sprinkle in some balsamic vinegar at the end, which is a really nice counterpoint to the bitterness of the vegetable. A squeeze of fresh lemon at the end is also a nice finishing touch.

Nutrition

Calories: 98kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 39mg, Potassium: 262mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 2974IU, Vitamin C: 25mg, Calcium: 129mg, Iron: 3mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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