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Jan 9, 2008 05:47 AM

Is Broccoli Rabe truly Italian or is it...

I was chatting about food and dining with friends at a popular Italian restaurant last night and the subject of Broccoli Rabe (rape) came up...we were comparing notes on this popular 'Italian' dish...when the knowledgeable g.m., who is originally from Bergame, Italy, came over and insisted that Broccoli Rabe is not native to Chicken Parm. or Pizza as we know it...Its more Italian-American than 'vera' Italian..It this true chowhounders?

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  1. Broccoli Rabe is a vegetable, not a dish or a recipe. It is grown in the Mediterranean (Italy) and, therefore, used in many Italian recipes. It also grows other places and is used in other cuisines (e.g. Chinese).

    3 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      bnemes, this g.m. also said the broccoli rabe that we know from the produce stand at the market is a different type then what grows in this true as well?

      1. re: gutreactions

        Broccoli rabe is broccoli rabe like a tomato is a tomato. But there are how many different varieties? Fewer than tomatoes but still some are heirloom and some are hybrids and they'll vary somewhat. There is little way of knowing what variety (plant type) the broccoli rabe is that you see in markets in the US as produce is rarely marked for that.
        It's possible that what the GM told you is accurate because the still-limited market in the US for broccoli rabe makes it more likely that commercial growers use a hybrid not grown in Italy. But it might be a hybrid imported from there. Who knows?

        I posted elsewhere on this thread a link to Seeds of Italy, a company that sells heirloom cime seed from Italy, mostly for home gardeners and small producers such as you'll find at farmers' markets or growing for restaurants. More of this is starting to appear as the demand increases.
        You can play on that website to see many varieties of common veggies that are grown in Italy that aren't grown in the US (yet) except in home gardens.

        You can remove the bitter edge from broccoli rabe - or many similar vegetables - by blanching it before using it "raw" or giving it a final cooking. This also gives it a brilliant color. Shirley Corriher has an explanation of how this also locks in vitamins. Many restaurants do this. I always prepare my crudité plates this way because it makes the vegetable sweeter, brighter and they stay fresher much longer.

      2. re: bnemes3343

        I'm not a gardening person, but cime di rapa that I've had in Italy (both in restaurants and home-made) tastes the same to me as the broccoli rabe I've had in America. I've actually never seen it used in Chinese cooking, though I've seen a lot of gai lan, which looks a lot like broccoli rabe, but isn't bitter.

      3. The Italian cultivar of Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) is called Friarielli, and is a bit more bitter than your standard Broccoli Rabe in the US. So to answer your question, it is quite an authentic Italian vegetable.

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        1 Reply
        1. re: sirregular

          Thanks for this information. I would expect anything from the ground (or from animals that graze on what comes from the ground) to differ from region to region, depending on climate, soil conditions, etc. etc.

        2. Whether Cima di Rapa is native to Italy or not is beyond my gardening knowledge (and the scope of CH) but there are a lot of heirloom varieties listed from a wonderful US company that sells seeds for Italian vegetables.
          Really interesting site with recipes. The site has descriptions of lots of Italian heirloom veggies and methods of preparation, how they differ, etc. I've found it really useful.

          1. HTH:

            Indian produce markets have broccoli rabe more often than not.
            Apparently, chefs within that culture use rabe in recipes that call for bitter greens.