Ravishing Rapini

Rapini (also known as broccoli rabé, broccoletti, broccoli di rape, broccoli di rabe, or broccoli di raab) is a common vegetable in the cuisines of southern Europe and in China. Various European languages use similar names: cime di raparapérappiraap, and raab. It’s known in Naples as friarielli and in Spain as grelos.

Rapini is a variety of the species Brassica rapa, along with bok choynapa cabbage, and turnips. All are in turn members of the Brassicaceae family, along with mustardkalecollardswatercressBrussels sproutsarugularadishescabbagekohlrabibroccolihorseradish, cauliflower, daikon, land cress, rutabaga, and shepherd’s purse. Rapini is classified scientifically as Brassica rapa subspecies rapa. Rapini is similar in shape to the Chinese Brassica oleracea cultivar called kai-lan. It has many roughly textured, spiked green leaves that surround clusters of green buds that resemble small heads of broccoli. Small, edible yellow flowers may be blooming among the buds. In addition to it being highly nutritious, its flavors are more complex than other greens. It has a pungent, almost bitter flavor that mellows and becomes almost nutty when cooked.

Rapini probably descends from a wild herb related to mustard and turnip that grew in the Mediterranean region. It is commonly cooked in Southern Europe and China. It’s popular in southern Italy, in particular Basilicata, Puglia, Campania and Sicily. In Spanish cuisine, it is most commonly found in Galicia. It’s also popular in Portugal.

Rapini was introduced to the United States in the 1920s by Italian immigrants. It was first recognized in American culinary traditions in Southern recipes. Rapini is now grown throughout the world, including California, Arizona, New Jersey, Quebec and Ontario. It is one of the most popular vegetables among the Chinese. It is probably the most popular vegetable in Hong Kong and also widely used in the western world. Rapini is available all year long, but its peak season in the Northern Hemisphere is November through April.

Rapini is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassiumcalcium,  iron, and fiber. One of the many health benefits of this vegetable is that it is rich in certain phytochemicals, including sulforaphane and indoles. These are chemicals which are proving to protect us against cancer.

Nutrients in 1 Cup Raw Chopped Rapini

Nutrient

Amount

DV

vitamin K

89.6 mcg

112%

vitamin A

1049 IUs

21%

vitamin C

8.1 mg

13%

folate

32.2 mcg

8%

manganese

0.2 mg

8%

tryptophan

0.021 g

6.2%

iron

.9 mg

5%

fiber

1.1 g

4%

calcium

43.2 mg

4%

thiamine

0.1 mg

4%

vitamin B6

0.1 mg

3%

riboflavin

0.1 mg

3%

protein

1.3 g

3%

phosphorus

29.2 mg

3%

magnesium

8.8 mg

2%

potassium

78.4 mg

2%

niacin

0.5 mg

2%

zinc

0.3 mg

2%

Calories

9

0.5%

Select rapini with small, firm stalks, and dark green leaves. Avoid rapini that has most of its buds open, and has wilted, spotted or yellowish leaves.  Wash rapini just before using as this will help rapini last longer. Place the vegetables in a cloth bag, and they will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator vegetable crisper.  Rapini can be frozen after it’s blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drained and cooled. It will keep for up to 3 months in a sealed container.  Wash the stalks under cold water, drain, then cut off the ends. Rapini is now ready for use, whole or cut up into pieces. Every bit and piece of rapini is edible, including the stalks, leaves and buds.

Plan on 3 to 4 servings from each bunch as a side dish, or two servings per bunch, if you plan to use it as part of a main dish.

Rinse rapini in a colander under cold water. Trim the base of the stems and discard. Cut the rest of the stems, leaves, and tops crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Some people like to separate the stalks from the leaves, as the leaves require a shorter cooking time.

Cooking is the first step in taming this bitter green and softening its texture. It is best suited for wilting by steaming, blanching or slow simmering and adding it to baked dishes and pastas. Some cooks like to blanch rapini before cooking to reduce its bitterness. Cooking in water lessens the pungent flavor of rapini and takes away a lot of its bitterness. Allow about 5 to 8 minutes cooking time in water or steam. Rapini is ready when it’s tender, but still slightly crunchy. If you are using rapini for simmered dishes, add rapini about 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

Rapini benefits greatly from seasonings. It pairs well with lemon, garlic, salt, spices, beans, pasta dishes and soups.  Cooked and cooled, it’s scrumptious in salads. It’s tasty in scrambles, quiches, soufflés and stuffings. On pizza or in soup, it makes for a delicious change.

Rapini is delicious sautéed in a pan. A simple way to prepare rapini is to sautée it with garlic and chili over low heat for 10-15 minutes, as they do in Umbria in central Italy, or season it with garlic and breadcrumbs, as is the more classic southern Italian fashion. In Italy, rapini is often served as a side vegetable or added to pasta dishes or risottos. In China, it’s added to stir-fried dishes. You can stir-fry the rapini in a wok with mushrooms and onion. Add this delicious vegetable to white beans and some angel hair pasta for a savory dish. 


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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