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I made rapini for the first time and was disappointed with the results. How should rapini taste when prepared? I found it to be very bitter, almost inedible. I sauted the bunch, trimmed of the thick bottom stems and large leaves in a little butter, olive oil and kosher salt until tender. My family loves broccoli and I thought they would also like this, but no one could get past the bitterness. Any help would be appreciated!

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  1. No it's not even in the broccoli family and is very very bitter. My husband won't go near it, and I only make it for myself about once a year and I make it in a soup with fennel, sausage and broth and nothing hides the bitterness. Not for everyone.

    I just looked it up and its closest relative is the turnip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coll

      They are both in the Brassica family. I don't know about botanically speaking, but as far as taste / appearance I'd say broccoli rabe is closer to jie lan (gai lan / Chinese broccoli), the rape plant (you cai), and mustard greens than to either broccoli or turnips.

      Some people are more sensitive to bitter tastes than others (so-called tasters / super-tasters), and developing an appreciation for dark leafy greens can take a little while. As others have said, sometimes broccoli rabe will be spicier / more bitter than other times. Do you like collards, kale, or other greens that are more similar to broccoli rabe?

      Nthing parboiling / blanching them in small batches in heavily salted water (per other suggestions).

      I like it blanched, sliced, then tossed with olive oil, garlic slices, salt, crushed red pepper, and something salty (some people would use sausage or anchovy; I'm vegetarian, so I usually just put in sliced black olives), served over orecchiette or other pasta

      Also delicious sauteed with garlic and oil (like above) with tomato sauce on some sort of hot more-or-less Italian style sandwich.

      To the OP: you could also try broccolini or broccoli sprouts / young broccoli, which are less bitter. Broccolini is a different plant, where broccoli sprouts or young broccoli are actual broccoli. Both are also delicious.

    2. We love rapini or rappe. I trim the stem ends and loosely chiffonade the leaves. Sautee a few cloves of sliced garlic in EVOO, sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes, drain a tin of anchovies and add those, finally after a few minutes toss in the rappe. Cover the skillet and cook till the stems and leaves are tender and cooked through but still green. We like this as a side dish, added to soup, tossed with pasta, tossed with beans and pasta....anyway I can think of to use it. Sometimes instead of anchovies I render some diced pancetta and use that for flavor. Somtimes I add a chopped onion...shred a carrot or two....

      1. I have read that Rapini (broccoli rabe) is less bitter during its "in season" months - which I think is now. The best way to reduce bitterness is to cook the broccoli rabe until al dente in a large amount of salted, boiling water. According to CI, the more water you use, the more that you can reduce the bitterness. After boiling, prepare as desired. My standard preparation is to saute in olive oil with some garlic and red pepper flakes.

        5 Replies
        1. re: DMW

          So boil and then dump the water? I want to like broccoli rabe, really I do.

          1. re: coll

            Boil, lift out of the water, and cook pasta (short format) in the same water. Meanwhile sauté the cook veg, coarsely chopped, in olive oil in which you have browned garlic and chile and anchovies. The anchovies will dissolve in the oil if you poke them around with a wooden spoon. While pasta is cooking, add some of the starchy water to the pan with the veg. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan, toss for a minute over low heat, and serve.

            1. re: mbfant

              I have to agree 100% with mbfant - very Italian, very delicious, made this many many times to wonderful results. This is one of the few vegetables I'd consider boiling and it takes to it beautifully. We had this in Italy a lot when I was a kid, and very very popular here.

            2. re: coll

              There's no reason to "want" to like rapini if you don't like it. Have something else - regular broccoli, for example - and forget about rapini altogether. It IS bitter - that's what's so great about it - but it's not for everyone. Please don't boil the heck out of the poor thing and then try to serve it. If you boil it long enough to eliminate bitterness, you will also have eliminated most of the flavour and it will be mushy, grey and waterlogged. I usually steam it very briefly - just until wilted, and then saute with garlic, anchovies and hot pepper flakes. And I find that most commercial rapini isn't quite bitter enough these days. But, obviously, that's just me.

              1. re: Nyleve

                "Please don't boil the heck out of the poor thing and then try to serve it. If you boil it long enough to eliminate bitterness, you will also have eliminated most of the flavour and it will be mushy, grey and waterlogged..."

                I'm so glad you said this! My thoughts entirely. Plus, all the nutrients go down the drain...figuratively. I've been cooking rappe for many years and never boiled it...my mother and aunts didn't either. Heck, I don't even steam first. Just sautee as I posted above.

          2. People don't all have the same tolerance for bitterness. I enjoy broccoli rabe's bitter edge. In fact, I think it is much more interesting than broccoli or most other cruciferous vegetables. However, I know people who, like you, find it unbearably bitter. Perhaps it's a genetic trait.

            1. Rapini is my absolute favorite green! Don't give up yet.
              Here's what I do, and it's so simple.
              I trim and chop the rapini to desired size. Then, I place the rapini into the basket of my Oxo salad spinner.
              I bring a tea kettle full of water to a boil, and pour it over my rapini. I put the top on the spinner, and let it blanch for a few minutes. Then, I pull the collander out of the spinner, dump the water and rinse the rapini under cold water to stop the cooking.
              You can reserve the rapini in the fridge until you're ready to prepare it, or use it right away.
              I often do this ahead of time, so as I prep dinner, I just throw the rapini into a saute pan and a little evoo, s&p (or whatever I'm in the mood for), and it's ready in minutes.
              The KEY is that you need to blanch it before you prep it. It cuts down on the bitterness, but maintains the verdant flavor.
              Here's a post I did on this some time ago:

              5 Replies
              1. re: monavano

                Interesting technique, a great use for a salad spinner, aside from the regular uses, of course.
                I also love broccoli rabe but mrbushwick does not love it. I saute it in EVOO with garlic slivers and crushed red pepper, like many other posters, or serve it in pasta and grilled sausages, or in calzones. I don't bother to blanch, just add a few tablespoons of broth or water to the sauteing step.
                Overcooking it is the worst thing to do, I find it doesn't necessarily eliminate the bitter but it will enhance the mushy waterlogged effect, like overcooked broccoli. Garden grown rabe is more bitter than the commercial rabe but it still carries it's bitter tang.

                To cher99: Either you can appreciate the bitter aspect or not. There isn't any cooking method that will eliminate the bitterness without killing the vegetable. Don't beat yourself up if you can't fall in love with it.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  I use my salad spinner to parcook a lot of vegetables, like green beans for example. It makes the prep so easy when meal time comes around.
                  I started to blanch because Mr. MV isn't as in love with bitter greens as I am.
                  Now, if rabe was only a bit cheaper...

                  1. re: monavano

                    Do you have the stainless spinner? I'm just thinking that the plastic one wouldn't take the heat.

                    1. re: bear

                      I have a large plastic Oxo. No problems with boiling water.

                      1. re: monavano

                        Thanks. So do I. Never would have thought of that!

              2. I don't boil it.. I sometimes steam it before sauteing with garlic and whatever else. In addition to being a superb topping for pasta, it makes a great sandwich on ciabatta bread with shaved Parmigiano.

                1. Rapini is even good in soups. I threw in leftovers to a soup recently, and it held up nicely.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: monavano

                    I love Lidia Bastianich's (sp?) recipe for crumbled Italian sausauges (1 hot 1 sweet), broc. rabe and lots of garlic. Brown sausage first. add lots of chopped garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes over medium heat - always stirring.

                    Add chopped stems and leaves of broc. rabe and enough chicken broth to make a sauce to the sausage/garlic mixture. Add red pepper flakes to taste (we like lots). Let simmer for a minute or 2.

                    Serve with orchiette or any other pasta that has some nooks and crannies to catch pieces of sausage, rapini and sauce. Serve with grated parm. and some crusty bread.

                    This is my husband's favorite dinner of all time.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      And note that Lidia Bastianich peels the thickest stems (not the leaf petioles). I find that not only reduces the bitterness substantially, but removes the stringiness that I also found offputting. Maybe both peeling and blanching would work for the most sensitive to bitterness? A dab of ricotta is also helpful.

                      1. re: sr44

                        Having watched Lidia peel the rapini many times, I tried this a few weeks ago to cut down on the stringiness (gets caught in my teeth!) I then blanched and cold-shocked it to prepare for use in a pasta dish with sausage and smoked provola cheese. Guess what--it was so overcooked from the blanching that I had to puree it and buy another batch. So please remember that if you peel the stems, reduce the cooking time!

                        I always used to parboil and shock but have lately realized that the parboiling is not necessary if you like the bitterness. I also think the AndyBoy that is in my local markets now has had much of the bitterness removed...

                        1. re: erica

                          through genetic modification much of the bitterness is removed in the AndyBoy variety? Hybrid? Re-hybridization? Not sure of terminology on this.

                  2. My very favorite homemade meal is sauteed rapini, spicy italian sausage, golden raisins, garlic, chicken broth (a smidge, for moisture) and pecorino peppato on pasta. OMG. It is bitter, and it's much, MUCH better if you can get it fresh and in season. If you get it fresh, you can use nearly the whole stalk. I use all the leaves, too. I've never once blanched it to reduce bitterness, but I only get it at the farmer's market.

                    I'm not otherwise a bitter-eater, so I do think there's some magic in this green.

                    1. You might want to try something I've often bought called "brocollini" which has all the qualities of rapini without the bitterness. They have it at Trader Joe's almost all the time. A classic Italian Pugliese combination is orecchiette pasta with olive oil and rapini (broccolini to sub). Buon appetito!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AllesandroSprezzatura

                        I don't find that broccolini is anything like rapini. It's really more like tender broccoli.

                        I do think that if you find rapini too bitter I wouldn't force your family to eat it. I find it has just enough of a bitter edge to be interesting, but it's not too bitter for me. I can't, for instance, stand Chinese mustard greens, which I find way too bitter.

                      2. Rapini can vary quite a bit in bitterness from bunch to bunch, even in season. We had some unbelievably bitter rapini in early Jan, followed by a very mild bunch last week. Maybe it's the weather, or the variety.

                        I have never found pre-boiling to make a big difference and in my opinion it's too much work. I usually cut it into 2 inch pieces and put in a large saucepan with very little water and a few crushed garlic cloves and some salt, cover and steam until tender, then uncover and turn up the heat to evaporate off the water and add olive oil.

                        Bitterness (in rapini or arugula or whatever) can be toned down by making it compete for attention with other flavors: sweet, salt, sour, umami. Or with spice. Many of the recipes suggested above do just that, with raisins, anchovies, chili flakes, pancetta, vinegar, sausages, and/or Parmesan.

                        Why not keep trying?

                        1. i like using polenta to counteract some of the bitterness.

                          i will sometime blanch in salt water to cut some of the bitterness and rinse well. then saute some sliced onions in oil til translucent, and add some carrots, garlic and red pepper flakes. allow to cook for a few minutes, then add in chopped rapini, and cook for 10-15 min. prepare some polenta with chicken broth; and at the end, stir in some butter and parmesan. serve the polenta with the veggies and feel free to top with sausage or pork chops.

                          here's another nice recipe: http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs...

                          you might also like it on pizza... i love rapini with ricotta because of its sweetness.... heck, i like ricotta and almost anything :



                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Emme

                            I've had great luck with a blanch in salted water just unitl it becomes that bright green and then saute with red peppet flakes and garlic..

                          2. I want to say the bread is "Laftah"(sp?) - Trader Joe's sells it. Flat big rectangles. I only use it for this now - and it's rare I do.
                            When I do, I set the bread on a small rectangular rimmed cookie sheet, brush it with hot olive oil that's already had garlic pressed into it, then, dust it from edge to edge (all over) with approx. 2T. Florida Crystals Organic Sugar
                            This goes under the broiler _maybe one minute_ - just briefly / long enough to "do the trick".
                            Out it comes and - in the same pan the olive oil received the pressed garlic in, I sautee it - after first cutting it "stem to stern" into long strips for a sec. _after about a 5min boil & rinse _first_
                            Instead of pressing in more garlic, I added a few cloves _sliced_ & toss-toss-toss.
                            Set pan aside to cool, tossing with tongs every once & again.
                            Get some carrots in escabeche and arrange them about 3" in from one of the long edges of the bread "bumber-to-bumber".
                            On the other side, also about 3" in from the edge & also "bumper-to-bumper" I arrange (2) touching side-by-side rows of sweet ham slices that I've slathered with cream cheese and rolled so they remain long but tight / narrow.
                            Down the center I arrange it - once cool enough to handle & proceed to roll up the bread.
                            It's not very compliant bread, so use bamboo skewers! '-)
                            Once in "roll form", I slice it into about 1" thick rounds.
                            The rounds each get a bamboo skewer. Either I bought some packs of 4-6" skewers, or I cut some packs to 4-6 inch length, not sure but that's the length I use - I don't use the "whole / long" ones for this, for sure.
                            The sweet of the sugar with the sweet of the carrots & ham encountered with the bit of dairy and the bit of spicy-hot of the carrots seem to be just what's needed to pull it off, to me.
                            As one of my gal pals would surely exclaim, "I bastardize it!"

                            The result's just the ticket for finger food though! '-)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                              I'm not clear on where the rapini is in all of this, somewhere after the bread coming out of the broiler? I think that's where it is...

                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                  Me and the pronoun "it": we need some time apart, that much is very clear!
                                  It's my first week here, sorry - not so good at it, yet - but hope to improve - Ewww... I just typed "it" _again_ - and in a post about not wanting to type "it" so much...
                                  At least I don't gnaw my nails '-)
                                  The rapini goes down the center, lengthwise, heaped in long wilted strands, carrots in escabeche to the left & rolled cream cheese-filled sweet ham to the right, (not that side matters, or I have OCD, or am a control freak, or am in denial if a suffer any one - or all of that '-)
                                  Please, feel free to alternate the positioning of these (2) items: carrots en escabeche + ham rolled long with cream cheese, leaving the final item: rapini, AKA: "it" heaped along the center in long strands - so as the entire length to be the same thickness of rapini prior to rolling it up, skewering it to secure & slicing it into rounds, or "pinwheels" some call it.
                                  I also neglected to mention my eldest likes to dip this in spicy honey mustard - the sweet & the bitter "get along" to her palate.
                                  Just a suggestion I thought may be enjoyed by others, too.
                                  It's easier to make than to type out, or read. '-)

                            2. Try ameliorating the bitterness by using a sweet&sour preparation - once it is tender, add balsamic vinegar and a few golden raisins to the pan. If you've sweated some garlic and/or onion along with the rapini, that will also help.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: greygarious

                                That's a really great-sounding one!
                                There's something about adding "sweet" to "bitter" with this - Like a spoon of sugar to a big pot of mustard greens before serving that "does something remarkable" to the end product.
                                Just last night we were going on & on about a certain teacher pal who makes what should be gawdawful "hodgepodge soup" from what I said must be her annual clearing of the cupboards - There's no reliable factor beyond the failure to have a reliable factor + for 90+% to be from canned goods, but it-tastes-marvelous-every-time. I was dumbfounded and never failed (since 2000) to arrive at her place for this annual soup by invitation event.
                                Finally, maybe 3 years ago, she caved and confessed she adds a tablespoonful of plain refined sugar to the finished pot everytime to "pop" the flavor.
                                A large chunk of our talk was around ratios & impact - How some take 2-5t of sugar in a coffee cup, or tea cup & this gal "only uses approx. that much for a whole stock pot of veggie type soup with such notable impact...
                                Yes, _these_ are the things we speak of here on long winter nights - _these_ are our conundrums '-)
                                There is magic in "Sweet" marrying "Other"

                              2. +1 on buying in-season for reduced bitterness. Bittman has a wonderful dish that uses both Italian sausage and sauteed grapes. The sweetness and the salty meatiness play brilliantly off rapini's peppery bite.

                                1. when u cook rapini always blanched it in boiling water with salt. i think what makes it bitter when u over cook it..because after blanching u will mixed it right away with ur pasta for 1 min. or whatever u want to mix it with...when u cook it without blanching it will take longer to cook not like when u blanched it u don't need to cook that long anymore....i hope this will help u...i love rapini, since i've been cooking rapini i never experience any bitterness @ all....and i'm one of those people that don't like bitter food

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: babymila1

                                    I too blanch rapini first in salted boiling water. It is the easiest way to reduce the bitterness. Then you can give it a quick rinse and saute with olive oil and lots of garlic. My favorite way to serve it is along with browned Italian sausage and parmesan polenta topped with a simple tomato sauce. In fact, since it is cold and rainy outside, I think that's what I'll make for Sunday supper.

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      I just prepped the rappini and realized I should have mentioned I don't use the whole stalk. I cut them off right below where they branch out and only keep the top part, as well as any other leaves. That might make a difference too.