Rapini , also known as broccoli raab, is a bitter green primarily used in Italian and Portuguese cooking. Rapini is low in calorie content but rich in vitamin A, B-6, C, Calcium, Magnesium and Fibre. If bitter doesn’t appeal to you, there are many ways to prepare Rapini to cut its bitterness. Once I tired rapini that had been prepared along with other fragrant ingredients, I became hooked, and it is now one of my favourite vegetables.
Behind every great dish, is a story…
For two fantastic years, I was lucky enough to live with one of my best friends, Lucia. We were first introduced by our mothers when we just wee tots. Our mothers have had a long and close friendship themselves and therefore we’ve spent many celebrations and holidays with each others families. I remember eating a lot of delicious meals that were new to me as a child whenever we visited Lucia’s home. Although I was a little wary of the mystery greens at first, it was the Rapini her parents prepared with fresh lemon and the aromatic flavours of sautéed onions and garlic that I fell in love with.
So where did they learn to prepare rapini so beautifully?
Tony, Lucia’s father, grew up in Raiano, Abruzzo in Italy. In this village, they celebrate St. Antonio Feast Day once a year during the winter. This day is reserved for feeding the poor and those in need outside of a church where they feed the community rapini, beans and sausages with polenta. Traditionally, this rapini and bean dish is called Rapini e Fagioli but Lucia likes to refer to it as Rapini Alla Paesana because acoustically it has a much sexier ring to it, which I have to agree. It translates as rapini peasant food.
This meal is hearty and savoury. I like to use corn pasta occasionally instead of polenta just because I love the texture of pasta so much. To keep it low carb, you can moderate the recipe by removing the pasta and even the sausage if you prefer to eat it as a vegetarian side-dish. All alternatives are still d’ilish!
While living with Lucia, I got to learn some of the tricks of the trade. First, you must trim about an inch or two off the stems and then briefly boil the rapini to rid any of its unwanted bitterness. Then it’s all about introducing aromatic flavours and extra virgin olive oil to bring out its best qualities. It just works. It’s like meeting friends who bring out the very best in you. Thanks L for introducing me to one of my favourite dishes and for always bringing out the best of me!
So whether you want call it rapini , broccoli raab, Rapini e Fagioli or Rapini Alla Paesana, I hope that this dish also becomes one of your favourites.
Rapini Alla Paesana (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)
Prep Time: 10-15mins Cook Time: 25-30mins Serves: 4-5
Author: Milk & Marigolds (inspired by the Cesaroni family)
4 lean, pork Italian sauces (mild or hot), removed from casings
398ml (14 oz) can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
½ bunch of fresh rapini greens (broccoli raab)
397 g (14oz) package of gluten-free pasta (I used the Farmo brand shell-shaped pasta, but I would also recommend g-free pastas by Catelli.)
1 fresh lemon, juiced
2 cloves of garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
Pepper to taste
1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil.
2. Remove sausages from their casings and place in a large pan at a medium heat (add a little olive oil if needed).
3. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small, bite-size pieces. Cook until the meat is nearly browned (You will continue to cook the sausage later on). While cooking the meat, add the pasta to the boiling water. Stir often to prevent sticking.
4. Wash the rapini greens and cut 1 inch off the bottom of the stems and discard. Chop the remaining rapini into inch-long pieces. Add to the boiling water for no more than 2 minutes. Using a large cooking spoon, remove the rapini from the water and reserve the water for the pasta.
5. Add the rapini, garlic and onion to the sausage pan and sauté together for several minutes until the onion becomes mostly clear. You can add more olive oil if necessary. Crack fresh pepper as desired.
6. Then add the beans and lemon juice and gently combine with the rapini and sausage mixture.
7. Once the pasta is al dente, drain, rinse and mix with the other prepared ingredients in a large serving bowl. Add more pepper to taste and a drizzle of olive oil. Place a plate of extra lemon wedges on the table.
8. Buon appetito!
Copyright © 2014. Milk & Marigolds