This sautéed broccoli rabe recipe is a simple, elegant dinner side dish. Garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice brighten the tender bitter greens.
Broccoli rabe has to be one of my favorite green vegetables. Despite its name, it’s actually more closely related to turnips than to broccoli, and it has a distinctive bitter, peppery flavor to show for it. I featured it in the Sides section of my latest cookbook, Love & Lemons Every Day, but I recently realized that there are no broccoli rabe recipes on the blog. How on earth did that happen?
This sautéed broccoli rabe recipe is here to set things right. It’s super simple – a vibrant, nutrient-packed side dish that you can toss together on any night of the week. If you’ve never cooked broccoli rabe before, I hope you try it! Red pepper flakes, garlic, and a big squeeze of lemon juice brighten the tender bitter greens. Easy and elegant, it’s a recipe you’ll make time and time again.
How to Cook Broccoli Rabe
When I cook most vegetables, I want them to have a nice al dente bite. Sorry, no mushy green beans or roasted radishes for me! But broccoli rabe (also called rapini) is an exception. In this recipe, we’ll cook it well past al dente to soften its tough stems and mellow its bitter flavor. We don’t want it to be mush, but we do want it to be well-done. Raw rapini recipes are hard to come by for a reason.
As a result, there are two parts to my method for how to cook broccoli rabe: blanching and sautéing. Sure, blanching is an extra step, but it actually saves you time in the long run, as it quickly softens the thick stems.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, drop in the greens, and cook for about 2 minutes, until they’re bright green and starting to soften. Transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, drain, and pat them dry.
Finish cooking the rapini by sautéing it with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes until it’s completely tender. This step should be quick – after you blanch the greens, they just need 3-5 more minutes on the stove.
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Broccoli Rabe Serving Suggestions
Most often, I enjoy sautéed broccoli rabe as a side dish, brightened up with a big squeeze of lemon. It pairs nicely with all sorts of Italian dishes. Serve it next to creamy polenta, a homemade pizza, or any of these pasta recipes:
- Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Kale
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Peas
- Easy Baked Ziti
Sautéed broccoli rabe is also a wonderful addition to pasta recipes! I love its slightly bitter flavor in this hearty winter pasta made with plant-based sausage, orecchiette, and Parmesan cheese.
More Favorite Vegetable Basics
If you love this recipe, try one of these veggie side dishes next:
- Roasted Broccoli
- Sautéed Broccoli
- Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Roasted Beets
- Sautéed Beet Greens
- Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Zest
- Sautéed Kale
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lemon wedge, for squeezing
- Trim ½ inch off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water and a large bowl of ice water. Drop the broccoli rabe into the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove and immerse in the ice water long enough to cool, about 15 seconds. Drain and place on paper towels to dry. (If using in this pasta recipe, stop here and continue with that recipe’s instructions.)
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the red pepper flakes. Add the broccoli rabe and sauté, shaking the pan and gently tossing so that it cooks evenly, until tender, especially the stems, for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain off any excess liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve as a side dish with a squeeze of lemon.