This pasta has been a long time coming. When I first saw it in mid-April, I wanted to make it immediately but was too busy to do so. Then I made a trip to the grocery store and absentmindedly bought a bunch of broccolini, realizing my mistake only when I got home. Broccolini and broccoli rabe (a.k.a. rapini) are very different creatures, with the latter being bitter and the former much more mild. I sighed and put the broccolini in the fridge, intending to find something else to do with it. A week and a half later, I threw it out, all wilted and sad-looking.
Then came a couple of weeks where I frequently scoured the Ralph’s and the Whole Foods near me, hoping to find broccoli rabe but leaving with empty hands. (Well, not quite empty. Boxes of ice cream sandwiches kept somehow making their way into my cart). As the weeks went by, my frustration mounted to the point where, a few nights ago, I had a dream in which I was arguing with a friend, came across a guy selling broccoli rabe, and became super excited. Upon hearing of this dream, one of my favorite people in the world said, “That is SO YOU. Conflict — food — conflict resolved.” Agreed.
And then came the day where I finally got my hands on a bunch of these bitter greens. The morning after I got my bar results (I passed!!), I went to the Third Street Promenade to do some shopping. There’s always a farmer’s market there on Saturday mornings, so I stopped by a few stands to see if, by chance, they would have broccoli rabe. And at the third stand, there it was. The holy grail. I was so happy. It was almost as awesome as passing the bar.
On the way home, I stopped at a different, larger Whole Foods and discovered that they had broccoli rabe. Tons of it. Fresh and green and leafy and laughing in my face because if I’d thought to check this Whole Foods, I’d have found my star ingredient a lot earlier. Whatever. The bunch I got at the farmer’s market was 50 cents cheaper. I still win at life.
But this post isn’t just about my battle with an elusive vegetable. It’s supposed to be about this pasta, this glorious, garlicky pasta. The generous amount of broccoli rabe turns what could have been a carb-laden, food coma-inducing dish into one that is much more wholesome. The red pepper flakes and lightly sauteed garlic add a nice kick, taking this simple-looking dish to a whole new level. And now, having made this pasta at last, I can finally, finally be at peace.
Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 pound short, chunky pasta
1 pound broccoli rabe, heavy stems removed, remaining stems and leaves cut into 1- to 2-inch sections
1/2 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
Optional: grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for topping
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. 5 minutes before its cooking time is up, add the broccoli rabe. It will seem like too much for the water, but it will quickly wilt and cook alongside the pasta.
Drain rabe and pasta together.
In the same pot where you cooked the pasta, heat the olive oil with the garlic, pepper flakes and Kosher salt over moderate heat, stirring frequently for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic becomes lightly golden. Pour pasta and broccoli rabe back into pot and toss to evenly coat. Pour into large serving bowl or individual bowls. Top with freshly grated cheese and eat immediately.