For 27 of my 27 years on Earth, I had never tried broccoli raab. My only connection to the stuff was the hope that someday I would meet a person deserving of the nickname Broccoli Rob. Working at a gardening company brought me face to face with the fall staple and now, finally, I understand its validity.
Raab is a wonderfully versatile plant. The leaves, tender stems, and green flowering tops are all delicious! As a bonus, when you harvest the stems from the top 10% of the plant, it will continue to produce throughout the season.
Typically when a recipe calls for raab you’ll want to use a combination of all three — leaves, stems, and tops. The greens are similar to mustard greens but can be substituted for spinach, chard, or any other leafy greens that are typically cooked.
Here’s an old Italian favorite raab pasta recipe that uses all three parts of the plant:
Wash your raab harvest, and chop it all up into bite-sized pieces to about 3 cups. It’s not necessary to dry the raab as you will sauté it later, so any extra moisture is okay. Mince, smash, or press a couple cloves of garlic, and set it aside. Cut one red onion in half, then slice it thin. You can give the sliced onion a crosswise chop or two to make the longer slices closer to bite-size. For the pasta, I like whole wheat penne but any bite-sized pasta will be just fine. Get the water set to boiling according to the directions on the pasta packaging.
On another burner warm up a skillet at medium heat, with two teaspoons of good olive oil in the pan. When the olive oil starts to shimmer and you can smell the aromas of the oil released, toss in the onions and let them cook for about two minutes, stirring here and there so they cook evenly. Next, add in the garlic, give it a stir, and then add in all the raab and stir again. It will reduce in volume as it cooks. I like to add a few cranks from the pepper mill and a bit of salt to taste to the raab while it cooks. When the raab is wilted and reduced to about one cup, take it off the heat and cook your pasta according to the time on the package for al dente noodles.
Drain your pasta when it’s cooked, but don’t rinse it. Just add the hot pasta to a nice serving bowl, add the cooked raab and onion mixture, and about 1/2 to 1 cup of ricotta cheese to the pasta bowl. Toss it all together and serve immediately with grated parmesan. Enjoy!