This broiled broccoli rabe is an easy-peasy way to sneak some greens into your week. But not just any greens. These boast an uncharacteristic texture and retain their inherent sweetness. Simply toss with oil, garlic, salt, and crushed red chile flakes, broil, and squeeze with lemon.
This favorite Italian broccoli variant is actually closely related to the turnip. Broiling broccoli rabe creates deep caramelization, which adds a touch of contrasting sweetness to the bitter notes of this vegetable. And it takes mere minutes, requiring nothing more than a rimmed baking sheet. Thanks to our broiling method, we were able to skip the usual step of blanching. We simply tossed the pieces with the garlicky oil and they were ready for the oven. For some true Italian comfort food, toss this with white beans. It also makes a bracing foil as a side dish for creamy fettuccine alfredo.–America’s Test Kitchen
What’s the difference between broccoli rabe and broccolini?
Broccoli rabe and broccolini sound similar yet they’re quite dramatically different. Broccoli rabe is a rather unruly leafy green that’s actually kin to turnips, which explains its assertive bitterness (that can be somewhat tamed with proper cooking). It’s loaded not just with flavor but vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals, including calcium, folate, and iron. Broccolini looks more like broccoli but bears diminutive florets, slender stems, and a mild, some even say sweet taste. It’s actually a hybrid of broccoli and the leafy vegetable known as gai lan or Chinese broccoli and, as such, has all the nutritional benefits of any brassica, a family of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
Broiled Broccoli Rabe
- Adjust oven rack 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) from the broiler element and heat broiler on high. Slick a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil.
☞TESTER TIP: If you like a little charring on your vegetables, then adjust the oven rack to 4 inches away from the broiler element and keep a careful watch on your greens while broiling. Otherwise, stick with a safer 6 inches distance.
- Cut tops (leaves and florets) of broccoli rabe from stalks, keeping tops whole, then cut stalks into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces. Spread stalks and tops on the prepared sheet.
- In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, salt, and pepper flakes. Pour oil mixture over broccoli rabe and toss to combine.
- Broil until exposed half of leaves are well browned, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Using tongs, toss to expose any unbrowned leaves.
- Return the baking sheet to the oven and continue to broil until most of the leaves are lightly charred and the stalks are crisp-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more.
- Serve the broiled broccoli rabe immediately with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This broccoli rabe side dish couldn’t get any easier. And it’s so delicious you’ll want to double the recipe. Mix a few things, throw them on a sheet pan, let the oven do the work in the amount of time it takes to pour a drink, and done! Ingredients are easy to obtain, or likely in your possession already.
Because the broccoli rabe retained its bright green color, firmness, and taste, you can definitely reheat the leftovers. You could also chop it up and use it for pasta, a salad or add it to a sandwich, or a grain bowl. I served it with a tomato-based pasta bake.
I used the highest broil setting (550°F degrees) and was concerned the fresh garlic would burn if I left it in any longer because it started to smell like it was. The total time of 5 minutes was accurate, with tossing halfway through, and it turned out perfectly. The fresh lemon was a nice bright finish. My husband even asked for seconds! The next time I might use a little less salt than the recipe called for and instead top it off with a coarse crunchy finishing salt or some toasted chopped nuts.
This is an incredibly fast way to make a delicious broccoli rabe—great as a side dish or as a stand-alone to eat as a snack.
I would recommend putting the rack 6 inches from the broiler, as opposed to 4 inches. This will keep the leaves from browning or burning. Also, in my opinion, it’s best eaten as soon as it comes out of the broiler and just slightly cooled. Eating it then is when the dish will be its most crisp, sweet, and delicious self.
What a discovery this quick and easy process is. The timing was just right. Everything came out bright green and beautiful and was overall seasoned nicely.
I feel that my leaf portions could have been cut smaller; most of the upper portions I was using were quite big and were a bit unwieldy at the table. The greens in the photo look much smaller. The various pieces in the photo all looked roughly the same size, while my leaves/tops were much bigger. My pieces also completely filled a half sheet pan, while the photo showed lots of open spaces. The coloring of everything looked the same, though.
I found that the garlic tasted a little harsh with such a short cooking time. I didn’t want to mince the garlic too fine and have it burn under the broiler, but the pieces I minced came out sharp (larger bits) or bitter (smaller that veered into burned territory). Other than using garlic powder, I’m not sure what the answer is here. I think I’d go with mixing the powder into the oil and pepper flakes mixture next time or add in previously roasted garlic cloves.
In order to get 1 lb. of broccoli rabe, I needed a 12 oz. bunch plus more from another bunch. One of the bunches (the older 12 oz. one) had been trimmed aggressively at the store and arrived with much shorter stems than the other, which was intact. This worked out in a way, since there would have been a lot of stems if none of them had been cut off at the outset.
Given the variability in the sizes of bunched broccoli rabe, it requires some flexibility, but this is a great technique.
We had this with blackened salmon, jambalaya, and honey-ricotta roasted figs for a Christmas Eve dinner.
Originally published January 07, 2021