Rapini, also known as rabe, is a variety of turnip originating from the Mediterranean. It is a deep green vegetable that looks similar to broccolini although its florets are smaller and it produces yellow flowers which are edible.
What does rapini taste like?
Although rapini and broccolini are visually similar the taste is very unique. If you’ve ever had rapini cooked the wrong way, it’s likely you’ve vowed never to eat it again. The best way to sum up rapini in one word would be “bitter”. But don’t let that put you off tasting it. Rapini is hugely popular in Italy and if they think it’s okay, that’s a green light because Italians know their food.
The secret tip
The secret to great tasting rapini is to blanch it before frying. This is a simple but necessary step if you don’t enjoy extemely bitter food. Combine a touch of garlic and chili for a simple, enticing and nutritious dish. I learnt this technique when I spent a month in the tiny town on Messignadi, Calabria several years ago. Their knowledge of raw ingredients, flavor and cooking technique was incredible. Old school knowledge that would hold its own against any modern restaurant.
Note: You don’t have to blanch the rapini before frying. If you enjoy bitter food you can balance the dish by adding a sweet flavor like honey. Hoisin sauce is also a good option for including a mix of sweet and saltiness.
Find out more about rabe – watch the video
Rapini Vs Rabe Vs Broccolini
Let’s start with rapini and rabe: they’re both the same.
Now you can check out the table below to see how broccolini and rapini differ.
|Appearance||Similar to broccolini with small yellow flowers, larger leaves and smaller florets.||Dark green, similar to broccoli but with longer, thinner stalks and smaller florets.|
|Taste||Pungent and bitter - the flavor reduces once cooked.||Similar to broccoli. Earthy, mild flavor.|
|How to eat||Best to blanch then sautee.||Best cooked: blanched, sauteed, roasted, steamed.|
When is rapini in season?
Rapini is a year round vegetable although its peak season runs from the end of fall through to early spring. Rapini thrives when grown in sunny conditions although it is quite hardy and will tolerate partial shade.
How to cook rapini
- Blanching for 1 minute will take the harsh taste away but it will still be quite strong.
- Blanching for 2-5 minutes will significantly reduce the bitter flavor.
Rapini is an efficient vegetable; very little is thrown away during preparation. The stem, leaves and flowers are all perfectly edible. You can cut off the stalks at the end but that’s where the waste ends.
You’ll find the leaves have a more pronounced bitter flavor whilst the stem and florets have a more delicate taste. Combining them all makes for a fantastic side dish.
- 1 large bunch of rapini
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic (diced finely)
- 2 chopped pepperoncini or your favorite chili
- Salt flakes to season
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cut off any large stalks and discard. Place the rapini in a sink filled with water to wash off any dirt and to revitalize the leaves.
- Add 2″ of water to a large pot, add rapini and bring to boil. The water doesn’t need to cover the rapini.
- Boil for 3-5 minutes then strain out water.
- Add oil to a skillet on medium-high heat then add garlic, cook for 1 minute.
- Add pepperoncini and rapini and cook for 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.
- Season with salt flakes and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Rapini is a dark green, leafy vegetable that is similar in appearance to broccolini but a lot more bitter in flavor. The excessive bitter taste can be used effectively to balance a dish. If you have a heavy meat dish, rapini will provide some fresh relief.
Rapini is usually served as a side-dish. It could also be added to orecchiette, artichokes and sausage to make Orecchiette Con Salsiccia e Rapini, a much loved Italian dish. For something a little more simple, add the cooked rapini to a piece of toast and melt some pecorino or cojija on top. A divine combination!