Pasta and broccoli rabe is terrific partners. This classic Italian pasta dish often includes sausage of some kind, and you could surely add it here, but I was leaning into a less meaty dish, and actually love broccoli rabe enough to want it all by its lonesome in this recipe.
Also called rapini, broccoli rabe is a cruciferous vegetable (so in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower) that is edible from stem to stern. The top of the stems look like micro broccoli heads, or florets, and there are leaves along the length of it. All of it is delicious. It is used often in Italian cooking, and has a pleasantly bitter flavor, which is nice against the quiet plainness of the pasta.
Some thinly sliced garlic cloves and red pepper flakes add a bit of bite and heat. And the Parmesan and anchovies (optional – skip for vegetarian dish) add umami and savory saltiness. A final drizzle of olive oil, and an extra sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper truly make the dish (especially if you skip the cheese and anchovies, which then turns the dish vegan). Definitely taste at the end and adjust seasonings to taste – the pasta should be highly flavorful, no matter how streamlined it is.
Pasta with Broccoli Rabe: An easy and clean but flavorful pasta dish featuring the singular pleasure of broccoli rabe.Tweet This
Vegetarian or Vegan Pasta
Leave out the anchovies if you want a vegetarian dish, and also leave out the Parmesan if you want a vegan dish.
Serve Pasta with Broccoli Rabe with:
- Pork Chops with Italian Salsa Verde
- Tomato Avocado and Cucumber Salad
- Greek Tomato and Cucumber Salad
- Tomato Mozzarella Caprese Salad
Below it’s pictured with Arugula and Cucumber Salad with Tzatziki Vinaigrette.
More Broccoli Rabe Recipes:
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Pasta with Broccoli Rabe
- Kosher salt to taste
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
- 6 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 4 oil or salt packed anchovy filets rinsed and minced (optional; leave out for a vegetarian pasta)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
- 2 pounds broccoli rabe thick stems trimmed, rinsed well, and very roughly chopped
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound penne ziti, or rotelle
- Juice and zest from 1 lemon
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese divided (optional; leave out for a vegan pasta)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and season generously with salt.
- Meanwhile, heat the 1/3 cup oil in a very large, deep skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies (if using), red pepper flakes, and stir for a few seconds, then add the broccoli rabe. Season with salt and pepper and stir to coat with the oil for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup water, cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli rabe is crisp-tender.
- While the broccoli rabe is cooking, cooking the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions. Remove 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Return the pasta to the pot, add half of the reserved cooking water, the lemon juice and zest, and the broccoli rabe with any liquid left in the pan. Toss to combine well. Add more cooking water if the mixture seems dry. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Transfer the pasta and broccoli rabe to a serving bowl, or to individual plates, and sprinkle over the Parmesan, if desired. Let people drizzle a bit of extra olive oil on the top of their portions if they wish.
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