Broccoli Rabe with Orecchietti: A Classic Pasta Dish

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Broccoli Rabe with OrecchiettiOrecchietti with Broccoli Rabe

Do you know what broccoli rabe is? It’s not broccoli. And, it’s not broccolini. It is, however, also known as rapini. A few years ago, I didn’t know that it existed. And because of that, the first time I ordered it, I didn’t like it.

Naively, I was expecting the milder and different taste of broccoli, and not the slight bitterness resembling a mustard green. I had an anticipated perceived taste in mind, but, had I known this was a horse of another color so to speak, I would have been charmed by the dish.

Broccoli rabe does resemble broccoli, but is not related to broccoli at all.

It’s taste is more similar to mustard greens or turnip greens and has even been referred to turnip broccoli. Once you realize this is not broccoli, you can enjoy this new flavor because unlike broccoli, which can be a little bland, broccoli rabe has a bite of flavor that brings you back for more.

Broccoli Rabe with Orecchietti Pasta is a healthy, hardy comfort food dish with umami flavor.

Greens with a bitter taste are offset best with hot chili pepper or red pepper flakes just like this dish of dandelion greens and pasta. There is an incredible satisfaction when eating broccoli rabe. It sets off a desire for us to want it again the next day, so once I do a broccoli rabe dish, I’m back in the store the next day buying it again.

Broccoli Rabe with Orecchietti Pasta

The other common name for broccoli rabe is rapini and is often paired with orecchiette (a small pasta made with the thumb), which is featured here with red pepper flakes, garlic and lots of authentic pecorino Romano cheese.

This is the dish that helps to reset the palate. I can’t explain the draw on the taste buds, but it does something else. It feels good and even cleansing. There is a pow to the flavor centers that is perfect for this time of year, after all the sugary cookies, heavy meals and one too many cocktails.

If you have never eaten or cooked broccoli rabe, make this the year to try new things, especially greens that increase your health and expand your palate. Just be sure to cook it correctly. It takes all of 5-8 minutes, but there are some tips you need to know.

My recipe for the best broccoli rabe is here. 

Make Broccoli Rabe with Orecchietti Pasta from Spinach Tiger

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Broccoli Rabe with Orecchietti: A Classic Pasta Dish that Leans Healthy and Hearty

Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian


  • 2 pounds of broccoli rabe
  • olive oil enough to cover bottom of pan and more for adding in later
  • 3-4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese grated and more for serving at table
  • 1 pound pasta
  • salt and pepper


  • Rinse and trim stems up to leafy area. Discard bottom inch of stem.
  • You can maintain stems, by cutting them in 2 inch pieces and cooking a little earlier. I usually don’t keep stems.
  • Submerge in large pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Place in ice bath to keep green color, while preparing next step.
  • Boil pasta according to directions holding back the last three minutes.
  • Slice saute garlic in olive oil in large frying pan (large enough to hold pasta.
  • Add in pepper flakes and lemon juice. Add in Broccoli.
  • Toss pasta into pan. Add more olive oil as necessary.
  • Toss with pecorino cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately with more cheese and red pepper flakes at the table.

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