Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Garlic-Seared Broccoli Rabe With (or Without) Rigatoni Pasta

(March 30, 2006)

Paula asked Lauren:
Dear Lauren,
Lauren, your short ribs recipe looks great, and I want to serve it with a green vegetable with a lot of fiber. Can you suggest a great recipe for Swiss chard or broccoli rabe?

Lauren says...
Broccoli rabe (also called brocoletti di rape, rape or rapini) and Swiss chard can be prepared the same way (as can Kale). The only difference would be in the type of trimming and the time they take to cook, both of which are negligible.

Broccoli Rabe Broccoli rabe, is fiber-rich and an excellent source of vitamin C and a significant source of vitamin A and potassium. It's available year-round, and is probably one of my favorite vegetables, with its toothsome texture and unique flavor that has slightly bitter undertones and yet leaves the mouth with a deeply savory (almost peppery) finish. Biologically, broccoli rabe is related to the cabbage and turnip family and it's sold in bunches that are completely edible. All that's needed before cooking broccoli rabe, is to trim off any dry woody stem-ends and then cut the rest of the bunch, including the stalks, into 2-to 3-inch lengths going all the way up, through the bushy leaves and flowerets. Many people suggest blanching (partially cooking) broccoli rabe and then refreshing it in an ice water bath, before finishing it off in a hot sauté pan. They claim this removes some of its inherent bitterness. I never do this, however, because I love the unique flavor of broccoli rabe (and so do my kids) and I also feel that this initial parboiling leaves this (and all leafy vegetables) overly saturated, thus unable to absorb the flavorful ingredients to come (namely, best-quality olive oil, lots of garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and chicken stock (or vegetable broth, if desired).

Swiss Chard Swiss chard, which comes in a green, red and rainbow variety, is a delicious leafy vegetable and an excellent source of vitamin A and a significant source of vitamin C. The "red" variety is extra beautiful (and a bit milder in flavor), with its deep red stalks, ribs and veining that runs throughout the big, floppy, dark green leaves. Be sure to wash these leaves well, since their crevices can hide pockets of grit. After washing, trim the stalks, pulling out any extra thick cores to any leaves. Cut the stalks into 1 to 2-inch pieces and then stack the leaves. Cut the stacked leaves into 1-inch thick shreds. Spin the shreds dry, then sauté the stalks first and, when just tender (after about 5 minutes) add the leaves. When wilted in the hot olive oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes and stock and then braise as you would broccoli rabe (see recipe link below).

For a favorite recipe, that illustrates how easy it is to perfectly cook broccoli rabe, read below! (The broccoli rabe recipe is applicable to Swiss chard, following the trimming and cooking instructions above.)

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Garlic-Seared Broccoli Rabe With (or Without) Rigatoni Pasta!

Yield: serves 6 as a main course

If you've never tried this intensely flavored vegetable, sometimes labeled "bitter broccoli," you're in for a treat! Broccoli rabe (or, brocoletti di rape, as it's called in Italy) was once scarce in the United States. But it's available year-round in most well-stocked supermarkets. In addition to being more flavorful than regular broccoli, Italian broccoli needs little trimming before being cooked. When seared in hot olive oil, laced with lots of garlic, some crushed red pepper flakes and then simmered in a rich chicken (or vegetable) broth, there's hardly a more flavorful vegetable around. Whether served alone as a side dish, or over piping-hot rigatoni noodles, as a main dish, broccoli rabe provides a nutritious, fiber-filled addition to your menu (that's also quick and easy to prepare)!

    Special Equipment
  • 8-quart blanching pot with built-in strainer, optional and only if including pasta
  • 2 large bunches broccoli rabe (about 2 1/2 pounds before trimming)
  • 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth (3 cups if using pasta)
  • 1/2 cup best-quality, extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic kept whole, plus 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon salt, for pasta water, if using
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta, optional
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Melted butter and additional stock, if using pasta

1) To set up: If including pasta, bring an 8-quart pot of water to a boil. If not using pasta, bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil and drop the whole cloves of garlic into the pot. Boil the garlic, uncovered, for 2 full minutes. Remove the garlic, using a slotted utensil, and cut each parboiled clove in half, lengthwise. Set the garlic aside and, if making pasta, reduce the heat under the pot of water so it simmers until you're ready to cook the rigatoni. Thoroughly rinse the broccoli and pat dry. Do not remove the leaves and only trim off the very bottom of the stalks; everything else is to be cooked and eaten. Cut the stalks and leaves into 2 to 3-inch lengths.

2) To cook broccoli: Heat a 12-inch, deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and, when hot, add the parboiled garlic. Stir the garlic frequently, in the hot oil, until it turns golden brown, being careful not to let it burn. Use a slotted utensil to remove the garlic to a bowl. Increase the heat to high and, all at once, add the broccoli rabe and crushed red pepper flakes to the pan. Use tongs to turn the vegetable, helping it to wilt in the hot oil, then scatter on the browned garlic, the raw garlic, 2 cups of stock and some salt. Cover the pan and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the broccoli until tender but still textural (the leaves will be nice and wilted, the stalks will be tender, but will retain a texture that's slightly "al dente" 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3) If using pasta: Return pot of water back to a rapid boil, over high heat. Just after searing the broccoli rabe in hot oil, add salt to the pot of water and then add the rigatoni. (This is when you'd add the garlic, stock, etc., to the broccoli.) Cook the pasta until "al dente," according to the package directions, checking pasta frequently to avoid overcooking. Drain the pasta, allowing some of the cooking water to adhere to the tubes. The pasta and broccoli should be done at about the same time, if not, let the broccoli sit, covered, on the hot, turned off burner.

Lauren Logo 4) To serve: Put individual portions of the broccoli and broth into warmed bowls (either alone) or ladle it over hot cooked pasta. (If using pasta, I like to coat the cooked tubes in a combination of melted butter and some additional hot stock.) Lightly sprinkle with salt and serve immediately, passing grated or shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan at the table along with a peppermill that works.

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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through Lauren hosts an hour-long, "live" weekly radio show, Food Family & Home "Matters," on 1460 WVOX.

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.