Also known as rapini, broccoli rabe is a cruciferous vegetable closely related to turnips. Popular in Italian cuisine, it has a reputation for being assertive (or maybe it’s just confident? We support it, either way.)
With a flavor somewhere between broccoli and mustard greens, this nutritious vegetable plays well with garlic, chili, and cheese. It’s often paired with sausage and other rich meats in pastas and sandwiches (Philly roast pork and provolone, anyone?)
Here, we’ve transformed it into a winter pesto. The broccoli rabe gets quickly cooked (or blanched, like the Golden Girl). It’s pureed with toasted almonds, Parmesan, garlic, lemon and lots of olive oil. We like orecchiette pasta (translation: “little ears”) to cradle the sauce and crispy white beans, but use any short-cut pasta you like, such as fusilli or farfalle.
This recipe makes a lot of pesto. Use any leftovers in place of tomato sauce on pizza, dolloped onto a frittata or thinned with lemon juice as a salad dressing.
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed
- 1/ 2 cup toasted almonds or walnuts
- 1/ 2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- Pinch dried chili, such as Diaspora Guntur Sannam Chillies, plus more for topping
- 1/ 2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, such as Brightland Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 pound short-cut pasta, like orecchiette or farfalle
- Chopped parsley or basil, for topping (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Add broccoli rabe to the pot and blanch until the stalks soften, about 3 minutes. Remove broccoli rabe from the pot with a pair of tongs and immediately submerge in the ice bath. Once cool, drain, then squeeze out excess water. Pat dry with a towel. Reserve pot of water for cooking pasta.
Coarsely chop broccoli rabe and add to a food processor with almonds, Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and chili. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, stream in 1/2 cup olive oil. Continue processing, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed, until a thick paste forms (it will not be completely smooth). Season with salt and more chili. Set aside.
Bring pot of water back to a boil (it will be green - that’s OK!) Cook pasta for 8-10 minutes until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.
While pasta cooks, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add white beans. Cook, tossing occasionally, until beans start to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Spoon onto a plate, sprinkle with salt and set aside.
In the same skillet over low heat, toss hot pasta with pesto. Add pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin the sauce and coat the noodles. Spoon into a serving bowl, top with crispy white beans, herbs, a sprinkle of parmesan and chili and a drizzle of olive oil.