Mom’s Broccoli Rabe

I know I’m threading on sacred ground here. Today’s chefs prepare this vegetable “al dente”. The stalks of broccoli rabe can be tough if not cooked properly. Many places I’ve eaten at prepare this dish lightly sautéed so the broccoli rabe has a tender crunch to it.  In my mother’s kitchen, that’s considered raw. If she wanted a crunchy vegetable she would order a salad. That’s her way of thinking.

I can’t tell you  how many times she would send the vegetables back at the restaurants we would eat at. “These vegetables are raw, would you have them cook it”, she would demand. How can you refuse a 93-year-old mother? I guess she didn’t get the memo that says steamed vegetables are good for you and healthy. Hey, her way of cooking them certainly hasn’t affected her quality of life!

All in all, I guess it’s a matter of taste. This is the way my mom would prepare broccoli rabe. You can adjust the cooking times to your taste. Broccoli rabe can be a bitter vegetable. Many Italians have developed a taste for the bitterness. If you like your broccoli rabe more sweet you can try preparing it this way. By boiling it in water and squeezing out the moisture you also get rid of some of the bitterness. Then you can saute it in garlic and olive oil. This is my favorite way of enjoying this wonderful vegetable. Simple and delicious.

Mom’s Broccoli Rabe

  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges
  • red pepper flakes

While the broccoli rabe is still tied in bunches cut off about two inches of the stalk.

Wash the broccoli rabe in a sink or large pot filled with cold water. Rinse and repeat at least twice.

In a large pot bring 1 quart of water with a teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot and cover. Cook for 6-9 minutes when the water comes back to a boil, depending on the tenderness you prefer.  The stalks of the broccoli rabe should be tender and not stringy when you bite into it.

Drain the broccoli rabe in a colander and run cool water over it. When the broccoli rabe is cool enough to handle pick up a bunch with your hands and squeeze out the water. Squeeze out as much water as you can. Finish the rest that way.

In a large frying pan or saute pan heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and add the chopped garlic. My mom has a hard time digesting garlic at 93 so I crush whole cloves of garlic and saute them  to flavor the oil and then I remove the garlic .  Cook the garlic until they just start to turn golden. Add the broccoli rabe and toss in the garlic and oil. Saute this way for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the broccoli rabe with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with some crisp Italian bread and a wedge of lemon and red pepper flakes.

About Peter Bocchieri

Peter was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a second generation Italian-American. He has a degree in Journalism from Long Island University and is an avid photographer, gardener and pet owner. Now that Peter is retired, he is relaxing at his home in North East Pennsylvania and cooking for his sons, Michael and Joseph, family and friends. Peter's passion for food was inspired by his Mother's and Grandmother's cooking, but at the age of 10 Peter felt he could do it better himself, so he did.
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2 Responses to Mom’s Broccoli Rabe

  1. jan says:

    My favorite! I like the bitterness so I skip the boiling process. After washing the rabe I let it soak while I saute the garlic in olive oil. Then I pick up the rabe from the water and toss it in the pot with the water that is left clinging to it which creates a steaming effect. It will splash so use a high pot and have the cover ready for protection. Sometimes another 1/2 cup or so of water is necessary. Let it cook until tender. Crisp italian bread is a must!

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