This is one of my favorite pasta dishes and it’s simple to make. I’d pass over a plate of lasagna any day for a dish of pasta with rapini. Italians go wild over rapini. Literally – well almost. It grows wild in the Mediterranean and also in areas of Southern California. In its wild form (in the mustard family), rapini has a slightly more pungent flavor. A lot people get turned off by rapini because of its slightly bitter taste, but when cooked properly, rapini actually has a sweetness to it. It’s an underrated vegetable in my opinion, which is too bad because rapini are very nutritious and delicious. If you absolutely hate the taste of rapini, you can substitute broccoli.
Sicilians typically eat this dish in more of a soupy mixture, with cut spaghetti. I’ve adjusted the recipe to appeal more to American tastes.
PASTA WITH RAPINI
(Pasta cu Bròcculi Rapi/Pasta con Rapini)
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 servings.
1 bunch rapini (Broccoli Raab/Rabe)
6-7 ripe plum tomatoes, washed
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 box farfalle (bow ties) or campanelle pasta
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1. PREPARE THE RAPINI MIXTURE: Trim rapini ends, discarding 3 inches of the tougher thick bottom stems. Chop into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
Bring 3 quarts of salted water to boil in a stock pot. Carefully add the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for approximately 4-5 minutes. The tomato skins will start to split. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water. Let cool until slightly warm to touch.
Bring the same water used for cooking the tomatoes to a boil again. Add the rapini and cook approximately 8 minutes, until just tender. Place in a colander to drain.
Remove the skins and tough stem ends of the tomatoes using a sharp small paring knife. Chop the cooled tomatoes and place in a small bowl with all the juices. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, reduce heat to low and sauté until light golden in color, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the rapini and continue to cook 5 minutes longer.
2. PREPARE THE PASTA: While the tomatoes are cooking, bring 4-5 quarts of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta in a colander and place in a large serving bowl.