How To Cook Broccoli Rabe: The Very Best Method

published Jan 4, 2021
How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

A step-by-step recipe for easy sautéed broccoli rabe, which involves quickly blanching to reduce bitterness.


Prep5 minutes

Cook8 minutes

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broccoli rabe plated in white bowl with lemon wedge on top.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Have you ever had broccoli rabe? This Mediterranean member of the brassica family is also known as rapini, and it tends to show up in a lot of Italian recipes, often paired with sausage and pasta. This green vegetable can be more nutty and bitter in flavor than broccoli, but cooked the right way, broccoli rabe is tender, flavorful, and worth grabbing a bunch of from the farmers market or grocery store produce aisle.

There’s an easy trick to tempering its signature bitterness, and it can be quickly sautéed with some other strong flavors into a delicious, versatile side dish that can be paired with rich meats or seafood. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

What’s the Difference Between Broccoli Rabe and Broccolini?

Broccoli rabe is very similar in name and appearance to Broccolini, which is a hybrid cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It’s green with long stalks, small florets, and maybe a few leaves attached, and tends to be fairly sweet in flavor.

Broccoli rabe, on the other hand, is actually not in the broccoli family but is in the turnip family, and it has thinner stalks and lots of leaves. It’s worth double checking the sign at the grocery store if you’re not sure if it’s broccoli rabe or Broccolini.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

How Do You Reduce the Bitter Taste?

As much as I love a bitter flavor in food, cooking broccoli rabe straight-up leaves it way more bitter than I like. The easiest way to get some of that bitter flavor out is by blanching it first. Just a quick minute in boiling water gets enough of the bitterness out and jumpstarts the cooking. It’s an extra step for sure, but it makes the broccoli rabe much more palatable and ready to be used in salads, or, my favorite method of cooking, a quick sauté. If you’re planning to sauté, let the broccoli rabe drain on some towels for a few minutes to dry off first.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

How to Sauté Broccoli Rabe

When sautéing broccoli rabe, I like to load up on strong flavorings like garlic and red pepper flakes. For a bunch of broccoli rabe, three cloves of garlic may seem like a lot, but that strong flavor really complements the little bit of bitterness left in the greens. Cook the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes in a good glug of olive oil, then toss in the blanched broccoli rabe and some salt and sauté until well-coated and fragrant. Don’t forget to serve with lemon wedges for squeezing — the brightness of the juice balances out some of the earthiness in the broccoli rabe. Eat as a side dish, stuff into a sausage hoagie, toss with pasta, or even use it to top pizza.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to make sautéed broccoli rabe.

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

A step-by-step recipe for easy sautéed broccoli rabe, which involves quickly blanching to reduce bitterness.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 8 minutes


Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large bunch broccoli rabe (about 12 ounces)

  • 3 cloves


  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt


  • Large pot

  • Paper towels or clean kitchen towel

  • Baking sheet

  • Large frying pan

  • Measuring spoons

  • Tongs


  1. Prepare the blanching water and ingredients. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, trim the ends from 1 large bunch broccoli rabe, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Thinly slice 3 garlic cloves. Cut 1 medium lemon into wedges. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

  2. Blanch the broccoli rabe. Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling water and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender, about 1 minute.

  3. Dry the broccoli rabe. Transfer the broccoli rabe with tongs or a spider to the prepared baking sheet and arrange into an even layer.

  4. Sauté the aromatics. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if using, and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is very fragrant and light golden brown, about 1 minute.

  5. Sauté the broccoli rabe. Add the broccoli rabe, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sauté until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges for squeezing.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

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