No matter how much one tries to moderate one’s food intake during the holiday season, one cannot help but eat just a bit more than one would want. Come January, even if losing a few pounds is not on my New Year’s resolution list, I still crave lighter fares.
For me, one way to achieve this, aside from eating lots of veggies, which I do anyway, is to make a main dish that will satisfy my appetite and will also be nutritious. This way I can just eat one thing!
Winter greens are a perfect candidate for such a dish, and for this recipe my vegetable of choice is broccoli rabe (or raab) also known as rapini in Italy. A member of the Brassica family, it is a close relative of the turnip. It's packed with vitamins and minerals and has an earthy and slightly bitter taste. Although very popular in Italy and Asia, in my opinion it still hasn’t made its mark in the US.
Unlike its famous cousin, the broccoli, where only the florets are eaten, the stems, leaves and tiny florets of the broccoli rabe are consumed and blanching it will take some of the bitterness away. Sautéed in olive oil, lots of garlic and a little chili pepper flakes this unusual winter green becomes truly scrumptious: a perfect vegetable for an earthy and light pasta dish! —Viviane Bauquet Farre
large bunch broccoli rabe – stems trimmed
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons
dried, red chili pepper flakes to taste
large garlic cloves – skinned and thinly sliced
reserved pasta water
sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
fresh goat cheese or fresh ricotta as garnish
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large soup pot. Fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes.
When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon sea salt and half the broccoli rabe. With the back of a spoon, push the broccoli down so that all the leaves are submerged in the boiling water. Blanch for 1 1/2 minutes. The leaves should turn bright green. Drain and transfer to the iced water bath. Repeat the process with the balance of the broccoli rabe. Save blanching water to cook the pasta.
When the broccoli rabe is totally cooled (about 15 seconds), drain and squeeze all extra liquid out. Lay out on paper towels to drain further. Then chop in 1” pieces and transfer to a bowl until ready to use.
Re-heat blanching water until boiling and add pasta. Cook pasta until tender but still al dente. Drain and shake off the excess water.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic. Sauté for 15 seconds until the garlic begins to sizzle. Immediately remove from heat and set aside until pasta is ready. (The garlic will continue to cook slowly in the pan and become translucent).
When the pasta is draining, reheat the garlic oil. As soon as it sizzles, add the broccoli rabe and toss well to coat with the oil. Sauté for 1 minute until heated through. Add the pasta, reserved water, salt and ground pepper to taste. Toss well and remove from heat.
Spoon pasta in bowls. Garnish with a little crumbled goat cheese or ricotta, drizzle with lemon oil, finish with a little freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve immediately.