Broccoli Rabe My Bitter Love

The first time I had Broccoli Rabe Mom had sautéed it with olive oil and garlic and made me a sandwich of it on thick slices of Italian bread, at first bite, it was bitter and disgusting. Rabe is definitely shocking the first time it touches the plate, and so I pushed it away. It was by far the worst thing, I thought, I had ever tasted and I would have none of that! Yet, Mom knowing I was easily coaxed into eating most anything, said, “I read an article that said the Six Million Dollar Man ate Broccoli Rabe.” (She was always reading some article to prove her points, for she thought, like many, if it were in print, it was true, ahhh the good ole days!) Well, that was all I needed to hear. I loved the Six Million Dollar man and wanted to be like him. And so I trudged grungy through that green sandwich and by my last bite, I was forever a fan of the bitter greens.Now I love them. –L-O-V-E them!

I am not boasting, but I do swear to you, and because it is a fact, I make the best Rabe in the entire universe and because, like MFK Fisher, the greet food writer, who I am now in love with, I too believe, all recipes and techniques of cooking should be shared and also it’s the nice thing to do and plus I want to leave a Rabe legacy long after I’m buried or burned.

Broccoli Rabe My Way

1 Bunch of Rabe

Olive Oil


Sea Salt

Hot Pepper Flacks (Optional)

Broccoli Rabe is so simple to prepare, but I’ll go into a bit more detail here because it is worth the explanation, anything that delicious and rich in vitamins is…   —Of course choose the freshest and most perky bundle of Rabe (but do I really need to tell you that?  I mean are you going to buy the ones that look rotting and gray? I think not.)  After I wash them thoroughly and depending if I’m feeling moody and intense (which can be quite often) I peel the stems and tell to them of my woes (I talk to my food and so should you) other times when I am feeling plucky and hungry, I’ll cut the stems off and chopped them up fine. (The very ends of the stems can be a bit tough though, knock them off and feed them to the pig or throw them on the lawn of your pesky neighbor.) When chopping up your Rabe remember it is okay if they’re dripping wet, you want them wet. I like to cut Rabe in small pieces, other people, the lazy ones, like it cut in half. I don’t like cutting my vegetables on my plate, especially hearty greens! I like to make it easy for my eater and myself. Next chop up some garlic and get your hot red pepper flakes ready and find your pepper mill.

Get your BIG heavy sauté pan. I use really big pans because I like to give plenty of room to the food I cook so it will cook evenly and feel free to move around, food has feelings and it likes its space, especially when hungry for heat. There is nothing worse than eating a meal that is unevenly cooked, some parts are raw, other are overcooked. This unusually happens when there isn’t enough room in a pan for food to move around and express its self in.  If you’re six foot four do you want to sleep on a small sofa? You would want a big bed to stretch-out in so you can properly cook in your slumber and so doesn’t your damn food.

While the oil is heating, grab a glass of wine and sip at it. Now grab handfuls of the Rabe (along with the chopped stems) and put it in the hot oil and this should all sizzle nicely, (if there is no sizzle the pan was not hot enough, drink more wine, smile and fear not, it is okay!) Once the green goodness is all in pan, add sea salt, cover it for a minute or so. You don’t need any more water! There is plenty of water inside the Rabe and from when you washed them. Uncover and stir. There should be liquid on the bottom of the pan. I pour this off, add more olive oil and fry them until the bottom of the pan starts to get a bit sticky and brown, now toss in your garlic,red pepper flakes and ground pepper. I like to fry Rabe out good and long, it gives off a really intense and layered flavor. When done, I slice a large loaf of Italian bread in two, I then smother the bottom half of the bread with the Rabe and sprinkle Romano on it and then add the top half of the bread and cut it into big sandwich chunks. I like to eat this with a big glass of cold milk.

(My friend Ida added dried cured olives to hers and a few anchovy filets when cooking, this perks it up nicely and adds an intense earthy deep richness).


About johncpicardi

Welcome to my blog. I am the author of the novel Oliver Pepper's Pickle and the published plays The Sweepers and Seven Rabbits on a Pole, both plays have been produced off Broadway and around the US. I am a graduate of Johnson & Wales University where I majored in Culinary arts. I have a BA from The University of Massachusetts and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. This blog is about food and food memories and every other fantastic and scrumptious thing to do with it. My appetite and passion for food is large and runs deep, sometimes its indulgent and wild and other times wholesome and simple, often humorous and always immeasurable. I grew up outside of Boston and spent many hours of my childhood in front of the TV watching Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) and Julia Child prepare all kinds of luscious meals that would make my mouth water. Other days I’d follow my mother and two grandmothers around their simple, tidy kitchens as they busily prepared hearty fragrant meals, hand-cut pastas, preserved fruits and vegetables, baked yeasty breads, spicy cookies and frosted lopsided cakes. I was there by their side asking questions and helping where needed and there were plenty of times I was ordered to leave if I was in their way. It was a given that by the time I graduated High School I would be going off to Johnson & Wales University to study Culinary Arts. Those years were fine and good. I loved the hands on creativeness of cooking whether it be the simple lesson of washing a sink full of colorful salad greens, trussing a chicken or peeling a gorgeous carrot or the complicated lessons of making a French Country Pate or Julia Child’s Cassoulet or making Brioche, it all thrilled me and my dream had arrived!
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7 Responses to Broccoli Rabe My Bitter Love

  1. This made me hungry. It also made me laugh — food needs room the stretch out in! YES! I’ve never eaten broccoli rabe on a sandwich but now I am going ot have to immediately. Brendan makes it by steaming it first and then chopping it up on a cutting board with a mezzaluna, chopping the fuck out of it so it’s really finely chopped. Then he cooks it exactly this way. You are right: it’s the best broccoli rabe in the world.


    • johncpicardi says:

      Its official, I am in LOVE with MFK Fisher and can NOT put down her book, “With Bold Knife and Fork”
      Thank you for introducing me to her, she is my new friend, my foodie soul mate and as I write this foodie book, Julia is looking over my right shoulder and MFK is over my left, advising and cheering me on!
      (I have to get a mezzaluna, you guys don’t fuck around up there in Portland!)


  2. Gerri says:

    My mother made like Ida…no wonder, they were sisters and it was sooo delicious. Lois was cooking it yesterday, but I didn’t get to try it.


  3. Johnny, I am so hungry just reading this so tomorrow I shall go out and buy some rabe and make it, is so good. Speaking of food, when you get a chance could you send me the you know what recipe (I don’t know how to spell it), again. I’m sorry I lost it. thanks, diane


  4. Debbie says:

    Love Broccoli rabe reminds me of christmas


  5. T. says:

    Do I even need to write to tell you how much I love Rabe (Rapini)…….I will take your advice to drink wine next time I make them and maybe I will be able to make em as good as my Mom 🙂


  6. gloria coletti says:

    My darling son, you do, I must say make the best rabe, of course after I taught you. You did improve my cooking technique and it really is so gooood


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