paleo sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic, pepper and lemon

Broccoli Rabe sautéed in olive oil and garlic is my all time favorite vegetable side dish. It was not something I ate growing up in Texas. In fact, even though it is quite popular in Italy (known as rapini), I do not recall eating it when I lived and worked there either. It was not until I moved to the Northeast U.S. that I discovered the deliciousness that is broccoli rabe.  At home my husband G and I sometimes fight over who gets more of this dish.  (“I think you got more than I did!”) And our two boys are starting to enjoy broccoli rabe too which means there will either be more fighting or I will have to remember to make bigger batches in the future.

For the Love of Bitter Greens

Broccoli rabe (aka rapini) is a highly nutritious, bitter green.  My taste for bitter greens may have started when I was about eleven years old and my mother had me and my siblings help her gather, cook and eat dandelion greens for a graduate school class project.  Much to our mortification she recently posted a bunch of pictures of that experience to Facebook. It’s a terrifying thing when one’s mother begins tagging childhood photos. Here’s the least embarrassing one. Lea and dandelion greens(No, I do not have four arms. I decided it was best to crop out my sister who may not have appreciated having childhood pics posted on the internet outside of Facebook friends!)

Broccoli Rabe Preparation for Cooking

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic is a fairly common side dish offering at many Italian restaurants where I live (New York City ‘burbs). But the quality varies quite a bit. The following recipe, although quite simple, is the product of plenty of trial and error.  Even though I happen to like bitter flavors, (dandelion greens, remember?), broccoli rabe is at its best when some of the bitterness is removed via a blanching process.  The stems are also thick and they can be tough unless cooked for while.  But, unfortunately, that can mean the rest of the broccoli rabe plant will be overcooked.  I have come up with a technique that helps the broccoli rabe cook more evenly. One of the really nice things about this recipe is you can prep and blanch the broccoli rabe in advance and then complete the rest of the process right before you are ready to serve it.

Caveat for Those with Autoimmunity Issues

The red pepper flakes add a nice kick that I like quite a bit. But if you prefer a milder taste or have an auto-immune condition and do not eat nightshades (red pepper flakes come from peppers in the capsicum family) you may wish to skip it.  The lemon juice accents the bitterness and gives a nice freshness to the finished dish.


  • 1 large bunch of broccoli rabe (aka rapini)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 a fresh lemon, wedges
  • sea saltsauteed rapini ingredients


  1. Rinse the broccoli rabe and trim the end of the stems (an inch or two of the thickest parts).trimming the rapini
  2. Use a crosshatch technique by slicing the thickest stems lengthwise then making a quarter turn and slicing lengthwise again being careful not to detach from the rest of the plant.  This helps the rapini cook more evenly.crosshatch on rapini
  3. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add salt to the water and then the broccoli rabe.  Boil for three minutes.
  4. Drain the broccoli rabe and immediately submerge into an icebath to stop the cooking process.rapini drained and icebath
  5. Heat a heavy duty saucepan on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the extra virgin olive oil which will bubble slightly.
  6. Immediately add the red pepper flakes and sliced garlic.  Turn down the heat a bit and sauté for about one minute being careful not to burn the garlic.olive oil, red pepper and garlic
  7. Add the blanched broccoli rabe to the pan and sauté for 3-5 minutes until heated through and fully covered in the oil, red pepper and garlic.  At this point you may add some sea salt to taste.sauteeing rapini
  8. Pour the sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and pepper onto a serving dish and squeeze fresh lemons on top.plate rapini with lemon

Serves 4 (or two hungry paleo-types)

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