Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe

Surprisingly, broccoli rabe is not actually broccoli, nor is it related to broccoli.  This leafy vegetable, also known as “rapini,” is classified in the same subspecies as the turnip.  Rapini stalks have large leaves that surround clusters of green buds that look like small heads of broccoli — hence the name.  Prior to this dish, we had never cooked or eaten broccoli rabe and weren’t quite sure we would like it.  But we knew rapini is common in Italy (where everything is better) and is packed with vitamins and nutrients.  Since we’re always looking for healthy — but still delicious — vegetarian meals, we decided to give this pasta and broccoli rabe dish a try.  We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed the nutty, slightly bitter flavor of the rapini combined with the garlic & olive oil pasta.  We also liked how quick and easy this meal is to make, with just a few ingredients:  broccoli rabe, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, orecchiette pasta and Parmesan cheese.  As we often do with first-time cooking attempts, we consulted the folks at Cook’s Illustrated (specifically, their book Italian Classics) for a no-fail recipe.

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