Rapini (or broccoli rabe) is one of those vegetables that a lot of people think they don’t like, simply because they’ve never had it prepared properly. Rapini can be very bitter, so the key to making it into a palatable dish is blanching it thoroughly before adding it to any other dish – essentially, precooking it to get rid of the bitterness. Blanching also means that you can get most of the prep work out of the way in advance; keep blanched rapini in the fridge for a couple of days, or in the freezer until you need it.
I love the combination of slightly bitter rapini, sweet end-of-summer tomatoes, and spicy chicken sausage here. It’s perfectly delightful on its own, but the flavors are also agreeable to serving with pasta and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Rapini with Sausage & Tomatoes
yield: 3-4 servings
- 1 large bunch (1 pound) of rapini, leaves and stems separated and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup diced onion
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1.5 - 2 cups diced tomatoes
- 2-3 spicy chicken sausages, sliced in half lengthwise, then chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a large pot of water until it comes to a rolling boil. Add the rapini stems, return to a boil, and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes. Add the rapini leaves to the pot and blanch the whole vegetable for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the stems are tender and the leaves are wilted but still bright green.
- Drain the rapini, submerge in cold water to stop the cooking, then drain thoroughly and set aside.
- Heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil for 4-5 minutes, cooking them without letting them turn brown.
- Add the chicken sausage and tomatoes and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is heated through and the tomatoes start to break down, an additional 3-5 minutes. Season with some salt and pepper (at least a teaspoon of salt and 6-8 grinds of pepper to begin with).
- Dump the rapini into the pan with the onions, tomatoes, and sausage, and stir to incorporate. If it seems dry, add a little bit of water or additional olive oil. When the mixture is heated through, remove from heat and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve as a standalone dish, or mixed with your favorite pasta.