If you’ve ever been to an Italian restaurant in Boston, New York City, or Philadelphia you probably know about sauteed rapini. Sometimes you’ll see it called broccoli rabe, broccoli raab, or even friarielli if you’re in Naples, Italy.
Whether you call it broccoli rabe or rapini, it’s a green leafy vegetable related to mustard greens. It has leafy greens, small florets, thick stems and a bitter flavor.
Not only is sauteed broccoli rabe a classic Italian side dish, but it’s my favorite side dish. It’s one of my favorite green vegetables because it goes well with so many dishes. The strong flavor and bitter taste of rapini compliments big juicy steaks and rich meaty tomato sauces.
The bitter greens are the perfect simple side dish to go with almost any meal.
There are a lot of rapini recipes out there. You can add them to pasta, seafood, and even make a pesto.
I’m going to show you how to make an easy sauteed rapini recipe that will end up being on your regular rotation. Who knows… this might end up being one of your favorite greens too.
The Ingredients You Need For The Sauteed Rapini
Rapini: When you go to the grocery store you can ask for broccoli rabe or rapini. They usually put the bunches of rapini near the kale and Swiss Chard and other leafy greens. You might also be able to find it at farmers markets when it’s in season.
Olive Oil: Use a decent olive oil that isn’t mixed with other types of oil. Italian, Greek and Portuguese olive oils are usually good.
Garlic: Use fresh garlic. Buy a head of garlic and chop it up really fine.
Chili Flakes: If you can find dried Calabrian chili pepperCalabrian chili pepper flakes, that is great. If not, any good quality chili flakes will do. I like adding them for flavor, rather than heat.
Parmesan Cheese: Get a block of parmesan cheese and grate it yourself.
How to Saute Your Rapini
Boil a large pot of salted water. When it gets to a rolling boil, add your broccoli rabe and make sure it gets fully submerged.
Have a big bowl of ice water off to the side. This is an important part of the blanching process.
Allow the broccoli rabe to boil for about 2 minutes and drain it.
Take the broccoli rabe and immediately plunge it into the bowl of ice water. The cold water will stop the cooking process.
Now, get a large skillet or frying pan and add some olive oil.
Place it on the stove and add a bit of garlic to the cold olive oil.
Turn the stove on medium-high heat and slowly start to saute the garlic. This is the best way to prevent the garlic from burning. When you saute garlic you don’t want it to burn. Burnt garlic gives off a harsh and bitter taste.
Add the red pepper flakes to the pan. As the garlic starts to cook the chile flakes will also begin flavoring the oil.
Remove the broccoli rabe from the ice bath and drain them well. Add the rapini to the frying pan and season them with salt and pepper.
Leave the heat on medium high heat. Get a little sear on the greens, but don’t burn them. If they seem like they are starting to burn, turn the stove down to medium heat.
Add a little bit of water to the pan and sprinkle in some of the grated parmesan cheese. Toss all of the rapini around so it gets coated in all of the flavors. Let it cook in the pan for about 5 to 7 minutes, tossing them often.
When the stems of the rapini are no longer tough, but not overcooked, it will be done. I try to cook the broccoli rabe to a perfect al dente. I like them with a slight crunch when you bite in.
Put them on a plate with a couple lemon wedges. The lemon juice goes great with the bitterness of the greens.
Add a little more grated cheese and enjoy!
Sauteed Broccoli Rabe (or Rapini) FAQs
Q: What can I serve my sauteed broccoli rabe with?
A: Put them in a sandwich with chicken cutlets or Italian sausages.
Add them as a simple side dish with a roasted chicken and creamy polenta.
You can also toss them with your favorite pasta. There are lots of pasta dishes that include broccoli rabe.
I also like to put them in a lasagna with a white cream sauce and fried chicken cutlets.
Q: What can I use as a replacement for broccoli rabe if I can’t buy it?
A: If you can’t find broccoli rabe but still want some leafy greens, follow this recipe with mustard greens, kale or Swiss chard.
Q: Can I freeze my leftover broccoli rabe?
A: Yes. Just store it in an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Put it out and use it when you’re ready.
*Want to see another great recipe with rapini? Check my → roaster broccoli rabe recipe!