broccoli rabe with garlic

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

 I confess, I have an addiction to broccoli rabe.  I love the bitter flavor of this delicious green vegetable.  I have always believed that bitter is such an important, yet under rated flavor in our culture.

I think a lot of people drink coffee for the bitter flavor that we all need so badly.  My Ayurvedic teachers used to say, “bitter is better for pitta.”  Pitta is the fire element and bitter is quite good for not only cleansing the liver, it is also wonderful for cooling the body during the hot time of year.

When I need a fix of bitter and I don’t have any broccoli rabe on hand, I turn to my favorite herbal coffee substitute –a nice little brew of dandelion and chicory root.

In any event, here’s a yummy little broccoli rabe recipe for y’all right now!

Print Recipe
Broccoli Rabe with Garlic
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet
  2. Add garlic to skillet and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, a few minutes
  3. Add broccoli rabe to skillet, and cook until wilted
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  5. Transfer to a bowl and serve

I planted a little row of broccoli rabe in our front yard and got a descent harvest from it in June.  It bolted though and now I have replanted another crop, and hopefully I will get more.  Another wonderfully bitter green is dandelion, though I don’t like it as much as I do my broccoli rabe.

What is your favorite green and how do you like to prepare it?

What is your favorite flavor?  In Ayurveda we were taught that there are 6 flavors –bitter, sweet, sour, salty, pungent and astringent.  It’s odd living in a culture that places so much emphasis on sweet and salty, when there are 4 other important flavors.


  1. Dave says

    Hi, Elena. Another Italian here who believes you need to Blanche the rapini before it hits the oil. It improves the flavor dramatically and keeps it bright green.

  2. Kirsten says

    I love bitter, too!

    Can you share what that coffee substitute is that you like? I can’t tolerate much (if any) coffee so I would love a recommendation for a good sub. Thanks!

  3. Shauna says

    sauteing the garlic with some anchovies until the anchovies are soft and then mashing the anchovies in the pan to a paste before adding the broccoli rabe adds a nice salty and nutty (not fishy) flavor. if you can eat dairy and aren’t interested in trying anchovies, pecorino cheese add also add a similar flavor element.
    also, we never eat broccoli rabe in our house with out a nice kick from red pepper flakes. we saute them with the garlic on low heat. the spicy flavor balances with the bitter so nicely.

  4. says

    Hi Elana,

    I’m also a Pitta, and I tend to gravitate toward bitter flavors of the three recommended for Pitta (sweet, bitter, astringent). And I find that sometimes bitter foods will take away my cravings for sweets.

    I love broccoli rabe. I usually add a squeeze of lemon juice to it at the end of cooking. The lemon gives it a bright, fresh flavor.

    Thanks for this post!


  5. says

    I just fell in love with your blog, and bought your cookbook.
    We are a Gluten-Free bakery in SF and have a fledgling blog – just added you to our blogroll, and made you a Favorite on Facebook, too! Thanks for all the wonderful info and mouth-watering healthy recipes!

  6. says

    Dear Elana,
    I gave it my best shot and tried your recipe for Rapini. As I mentioned in an earlier post I am from an Italian family and had Rapini weekly growing up. I was always taught to blanch it first and I will continue to do so. It so takes away the strong bitterness that overpowers the vegetable. However, your idea of 10 garlic cloves in the olive oil is awesome! I will do that again. I left them whole and it was like roasted garlic. I did add a large pinch of red pepper flakes to the oil after the garlic was golden. Delish! I let the garlic and pepper fuse in the olive oil for a while then added the rapini. Soo good. Thank you.

  7. Katie says

    An excellent post. I find that despite my ignorance of most specifics of Ayurvedic cooking, I tend to mix things up intuitively anyway. In retrospect, I realized how true it is that we need that variety, and of course our bodies will at least try to let us know. We made something similar to this last night with mustard greens from our CSA. Tonight we will probably “use up” some of the chard as well (‘use up’ — oh, it’s so hard to eat delicious organic produce ; ). Thanks for reminding me to try brocolli rabe the next time I find it at a decent price!


    P.S. I have been increasing my efforts to be more involved in the commenting community (and forums when it’s helpful) since your post asking about our thoughts on the blog. I so often profit from others, so why not put in my two cents? I was so delighted to see that you used my comment in the “Before you comment…” section : ) Convinces me that I offer something on here at least some of the time, ha! Thanks!

  8. says

    I really like chinese broccoli and swiss chard. The chinese broccoli is both leafy and crunchy and I prepare it very similarly to your dish, just garlic, salt & pepper.

  9. Beth says

    I have never tried broccoli rabe, but will look for it next time I’m at the Farmer’s Market.
    My favourite green is spinach. I love it in Green Smoothies, as well as lightly steamed with a dash of celtic sea salt & ground pepper. Yum!

  10. says

    Broccoli rabe is such a great green for an easy side dish. I love how easily it cooks down and takes on the flavors it’s paired with, while adding a bit of that distinctive bitter taste.

  11. says

    The bitter herbs baked into bisuits and breads (gluten-free) are some of my regular treats. Good French-roast coffee is another. Sweet and sour is a favorite combination – childhood memories go back to the really sweet + sour bread&butter pickles. And salty is one I try to avoid because I always overdo it – bloated is not a good feeling.

  12. Shannon says

    Hey Elana,

    I just thought I’d throw this book out there, even though I’m sure you’ve already heard of it.

    Paul Pitchford’s ‘Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition”

    It is my bible for nutrition.

  13. says

    I am from an Italian family so I was taught to blanch the rapini before sauting it in garlic, olive oil and a touch of red pepper flakes. The blanching takes some of the sharp bitterness out. Will try your way with this bunch as it looks so fresh and young. One of life’s better gifts!

  14. Stacey says

    Where does sour fit into those 5 flavours?
    I always thought of the 5 flavours as: sweet sour salty bitter and umami, but I am not at all schooled in Ayerveda.

  15. says

    Hey Elana, love your blog and we have many of the same tastes. I was a veggie hog long before I went gluten-free (four years & counting) and one of my favorites is broccolini which I think is the same as broccoli rabe. I prepare mine in much the same fashion you do. By the same token, dinosaur kale – my favorite of the kales – can be prepared like this but I mince the garlic and make the addition of roasted pine nuts, a splash of roasted sesame seed oil and one of balsamic vinegar that’s a bit on the sweeter side.

    Another favorite bitter vegetable is bitter melon, which can be steamed, stir-fried or stewed and has medicinal properties as well. It has twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and a slew of vitamins and fiber. It is believed to reduce blood sugar, be good for the liver and as it contains a natural form of insulin, is helpful for diabetics. There is some research to say that bitter melon is an anti-carcinogenic, and inhibits HIV-1 infection.

    I like my food to do double-duty. As well as stoking the boiler, it needs to act as medicine and contribute to the wellness of my body. :-)

    Great articles, keep it up!

    • Stacey says

      broccolini (aka baby broccol)i tends to be sweet and tender, and is a different vegetable than broccoli rabe (aka rapini) which tends to be bitter and tougher (and makes me salivate just thinking about it)

    • Tara says

      To add to what Stacey wrote, broccolini (aka baby broccoli) is actually a cross between broccoli and gai lan (Chinese broccoli). In addition, broccoli rabe (aka rapini) also goes by the name broccoletti, which may be why many people confuse broccolini with broccoli rabe… just a thought… :)

  16. says

    That was interesting information on tastes. I’m not sure what mine is. Often I have a craving for something savory, like garlic, so I am not sure what category that would be in.

  17. says

    In all honesty I have never even heard of the other 3 flavors, or at least never thought about them. I suppose it is due to me being “raised” in this culture where salt and sweet are two of the most important elements in modern food. However, I think it is time to bring back and introduce more flavors to the palates…especially to growing children, who should grow up with an appreciation of all food, or the willingness to try new foods.

    I’ve never tried broccoli rabe before, but have been wanting to. I couldn’t think of what to do with it. I love garlic, so I’m thinking this should be a good one, :).

    If I’m right, bitters are supposed to help prep the stomach for digestion by producing more saliva in the mouth, thus producing more beneficial enzymes to help digest our food. I haven’t delved into bitters yet, so thanks for reminding me!

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