Rapini—It’s All in the Name

from left to right: Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Red Russian Kale Rapini, Purple Cabbage Rapini, and Turnip Rapini

One of the highlights of our spring season is the abundance of the flower shoots of all of the various Brassica plants. This amazing edible family includes turnips, kale, cabbage, broccoli, and many others. While we’re used to eating the flowering parts of the broccoli plant, many people aren’t aware that all of the brassicas do the same thing in the spring. They flower. They are all edible, and they are all delicious, each with their own particular flavor. In the photo above, you can see a sample of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Green Cabbage, Purple Kale, and Turnips.

Turnips are the true “Broccoli Raab”, also called Broccoli Rabe, or Rapini. “Rape” is the Italian name for turnip, and broccoli means something like flowering thing (in Mike’s rustic Italian). Adding “ini” at the end implies that it is a small thing, so if we put it all together “rapini” is a little turnip thing, and broccoli rabe is a flowering turnip thing.

No matter what you call them all, they’re all delicious. They cook quickly, and are great simply sauteed with a little olive oil and garlic, or topped on a pizza, or tossed with pasta. Enjoy them while they’re in season in April and May, because once they’re gone everyone is disappointed until next year.


1 Large Onion
6 to 8 cloves Garlic
2 bunches Broccoli Raab (1-1/2 pounds)
Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 to 3/4 pound Penne Pasta
Red Wine Vinegar
Pecorino Romano Cheese

1. Peel and thinly slice the onion. Smash, peel, and thinly slice the garlic. Wash the broccoli raab, removing the heavy stems, and chop the leaves and sprouts coarsely. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

2. Liberally cover the bottom of a sauté pan with the olive oil and sauté the onion over high heat. When the onion has begun to wilt and brown a little, add the garlic and pepper flakes, to taste, and salt. Toss briefly, then add the broccoli raab and a splash of water. Lower the heat and cook until tender, stirring or tossing frequently. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Taste the broccoli raab for seasoning and add a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil and a splash or red wine vinegar. Toss with the freshly cooked and drained pasta, and garnish with grated cheese.


1 medium Yellow Onion
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
Optional: 2 sprigs Thyme
1 bunch Broccoli Raab
1 clove Garlic
1 pinch Hot Pepper Flakes
Pizza Dough for 1 pizza
1/2 cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese
16 Nicoise Olives, pitted
1 Lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

2. Dice the onion and toss in a small ovenproof sauté pan with a pinch of salt and enough olive oil to coat lightly, and the leaves of the thyme. Put the pan in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the onion is cooked and golden, about 30 minutes.

3. While the onion is roasting, wash and drain the broccoli raab, remove the heavy stems, and rougly chop the leaves and sprouts into coarse chiffonade. There should be enough to make about 2 cups. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Heat a large sauté pan and coat it with olive oil. Add the broccoli raab, season with salt, pepper, and the hot pepper flakes, and fry over high heat until the broccoli raab is tender. Add the garlic and fry, tossing, for a few seconds.

4. When the onions are done, take them out of the oven and turn the heat up to 450° to 500°. Put a pizza stone in the oven. Roll out or shape a 12- to 14-inch disk of pizza dough and slide it onto a floured pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil, leaving a 1/2-inch border dry. Evenly sprinkle the cheese on the oiled surface, spread the onions over, and top with the broccoli raab and the olives. Drizzle about 1 tbsp olive oil over the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone in the oven and bake from 5 to 10 minutes, until the crust is brown and crisp. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice over it, slice, and serve.


adapted from Cook’s Illustrated BASIC BLANCHED RAPINI (BROCCOLI RAAB)

1 pound Rapini (broccoli rabe), washed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons Salt

1. Bring 3 quarts water to boil in large saucepan. Stir in rapini greens and salt and cook until wilted and tender, about 2 1/2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Cool empty saucepan by rinsing under cold running water. Fill cooled saucepan with cold water and submerge greens to stop the cooking process. Drain again; squeeze well to dry (or twirl in a salad spinner) and proceed with one of the following recipes.

Variation 1:
2 T extra virgin Olive Oil
3 medium Garlic Cloves
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 recipe Blanched Rapini Greens (above)

1. Heat oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in medium skillet over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle, about 3 to 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium high, add blanched rapini greens, and cook, stirring to coat with oil, until heated through, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt, serve immediately.

Variation 2:

Ingredients for Variation 1, plus
1/4 cup Oil-Packed Sun-dried Tomatoes, cut into thin strips
3 tbsp. Toasted Pine Nuts

1. Follow recipe for Rapini with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes, adding sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Add toasted pine nuts to skillet with rapini greens.

Variation 3:

Ingredients for Variation 1, plus
1 tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 1/2 tsp. Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
1 tsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Finely Grated Ginger

1. Mix soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and sugar in small bowl; set aside. Follow recipe for Rapini with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes, adding ginger along with garlic and red pepper flakes. Add reserved soy sauce mixture to skillet along with rapini.


1 bunch Kale-ini (or rapini)
2 tbsp. Anchovy Paste
Juice and zest of 1 Lemon
4 tbsp. Olive Oil

1. Stir-fry the kale-ini in a hot wok with a little oil until bright green but still crisp.

2. Whisk together rest of ingredients and pour over veggies in wok. Stir to heat dressing slightly and serve.

5 responses to “Rapini—It’s All in the Name

  1. Pingback: Spring Week 2: Where are you, Spring? | Whistling Train Farm

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  4. Thank You for the list of recipes. From the ingredients alone they sound deliscious. Will definitely try the Asian version as well.

  5. Pingback: Hello? Seattle? « The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

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