Food columnist Lou Groccia talks broccoli rabe

Friday, January 26, 2018

When it’s 14 degrees outside and snowing and you are in someone else’s home in the hills of Vermont while that person is still at work, the least you can do is offer to make dinner.

And what better meal to get ready for someone trudging in from the bitter cold and snow than creamy pasta with hot Italian sausage and broccoli rabe and Parmesan.

So, we went to one of the local food co-ops (which are as prevalent in Vermont as Dunkin’ Donuts are in Massachusetts).

No problem getting the orecchiette pasta, which look like little ears.

No problem getting the heavy cream and butter.

No problem getting the hot Italian sausage.

No problem getting the Parmesan.

But there was a problem getting the broccoli rabe. As in there wasn’t any. But the co-op did have broccolini. Which we bought.

Now the dish turned out just fine. How could it not when you toss all the cooked ingredients with gobs of butter and heavy cream?

I did notice that the broccolini was less bitter than the broccoli rabe (also called rapini). But still delicious. Which got me to thinking (I’m allowed to think three times a week maximum, which is way more than I need). Which got me to Googling. Here’s what I discovered:

Broccolini is not baby broccoli. It is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli, created in 1993. And it is slightly more bitter than broccoli.

Broccoli rabe is not even a member of the broccoli family. Get this: It is a member of the turnip family. Seriously. And it has the good amount of bitterness I prefer in the aforementioned pasta dish.

Broccoli is the green vegetable that former President George Herbert Walker Bush detested (Those were the days: when presidents just detested vegetables).

Thus endeth your lessons in greenery and strong emotions.


Broccoli, broccoli, broccoli. This time of year I start to look at broccoli with disdain. Not because I don’t like it, because I eat a lot of it in the winter and I get really sick of it. I will mix it up with broccolini, which I think has an almost asparagus-like flavor. And sometimes broccoli rabe.

Asparagus reminds me of spring. Which seems far away.

I’m sick of winter too, not just broccoli. The two seem to go hand in hand. Thus the disdain.