I know there are other things to do with rapini but I am stuck in a happy rut. I always eat it exactly the same way. Rapini also called broccoli rabe looks like a leafy miniature broccoli and has a slight bitterness to it that marries well with the richness of Italian sausage. Toss that combination with a little onion, garlic, chili flakes and pasta and you're in business.
Broccoli rabe or rapini was something I ate in Italy, there it was blanched and then sauted in olive oil with garlic. Only in Italy it was called broccoli rape pronounced "rah-pay". But I imagine the "rape" name has not helped it much in the popularity department in the English speaking world. If you look it up in the dictionary it turns out to have even more names--rapa, raab, rappone (for big bunches I guess) Italian turnip, taitcat and turnip broccoli. In Italian rapa means turnip and broccoli means broccoli. As for the identity crisis--am I a turnip or am I broccoli? It is a relative of the turnip and yet looks more like broccoli. As far as the names goes, I think I'll stick with rapini.
In addition to being delicious, rapini is a very healthy vegetable with a high level of vitamin K in addition to vitamins A and C, calcium, folate and potassium. It is super easy to prepare and cook. You just boil it for a minute or two and voila! No stems to peel, no florets to break apart. Just don't overcook it, the texture is part of what makes it so good. Even people who don't like broccoli often like it which makes it pretty special indeed.
Penne with Rapini & Italian Sausage
serves 2 - 3 (double the recipe if you are serving more folks)
8 ounces penne (I use the "O" organic whole wheat penne from Safeway)
8 ounces, rapini or about one small bunch
8 ounces Italian sausages, about 2 links
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
pinch of red chili flakes (optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan or peccorino cheese
In a large pot, boil water with a large pinch of salt for the pasta and to blanch the rapini.
Heat a large skillet over medium heath and into it, crumble the Italian sausage and add the onion. Cook over medium heat and after 5 minutes add the garlic. Cook until onion is translucent and sausage is cooked through. If sausage sticks to the pan, add a splash of water and scrape it upwith a wooden spoon.
Cook the rapini in the boiling water for just a minute then take out with tongs or a strainer. Bring the water up to a boil again and add the penne. Chop the rapini roughly and add it to the sausage mixture along with the chili flakes.
Combine the cooked penne and sausage mixture and add half the parmesan cheese, tossing to combine. Taste for seasonings and serve with the rest of the cheese.