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Rapini with Potatoes and Italian Sausage
There are very few foods I dislike outright (hello, capers!), and I’m pretty open to trying at least one bite of anything I’ve never eaten before. So it’s pretty rare for me to run into a vegetable I haven’t cooked at least once, but the rapini in my CSA basket last week was a new one for me.
Faced with that mysterious green bundle, I fell down a rabbit hole of research. Here are some of the things I learned:
— Rapini is also known as raab and rabe and broccoli rabe and broccoli raabe, and while all of those are the same thing, broccolini is an entirely different vegetable. Broccolini is available in stores almost all year, but rapini is special; it’s only here in the spring, just after ramps and around the same time as asparagus.
— It’s no wonder we Americans are confused about the name. In Italy, rapini is called cime di rapa (which literally means “turnip tops”); in Naples, it’s known as friarielli; in Rome, it’s broccoletti; and in Portugal and Spain, they call it grelos.
— Despite its similar nomenclature with broccoli, rapini is more closely related to turnip and mustard greens, so it can be bitter. That’s why it’s important to cook it in boiling, salted water before gently coating it in olive oil. This method of cooking vegetables a second time — preferably in fats and aromatics — is called ripassare in Italian.
— A 1/2 cup serves up more than half your daily requirement of free-radical-fighters vitamins A and C. It’s also a good source of folate (a B vitamin that protects against heart disease), as well as potassium, fiber, and calcium.
Rapini with Potatoes and Italian Sausage
Serves 2-4 | Prep 10 minutes | Cook 50 minutes | Whole30 compliant (see note below)
1 pound Italian sausage (see note below)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch rapini
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed but left whole
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Boil the sausage and potatoes. In a saucepan, place the sausage links and potatoes with enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and sausage from the water. Set aside in a colander to drain. Meanwhile…
Prep the rapini. Cut the rapini stalks to separate the leaves from the stems; set the leafy parts aside. Using a small, sharp knife or peeler, peel the skin from any thick stalks; cut all the stalks into 2-inch lengths. (The thicker stalks should be eaten but, like thicker asparagus, they need to be peeled before cooking.)
Cook the rapini. Add 1-2 more cups of water to the potato water and return it to a boil. When it’s rolling nicely, add the rapini stems along with the salt, cover partially, and cook over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Now add the leaves and cook them together with the stems until tender but not mushy, 3 to 4 minutes more. Drain the greens and set aside. IMPORTANT: If the stalks are at all crisp, they will be bitter, so cook them until they’re sweetly soft.
Sauté, part one. In a large, nonstick skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat and add the garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the garlic is nicely softened but not colored, about 4 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the potatoes to the pan. Sauté until they are golden and crispy all over, about 10-12 minutes, then set aside. Cut the sausage into coins. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the sausage; cook until browned on both sides; remove and set aside.
Sauté, part two. Warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat, add the rapini and garlic cloves to the pan. Sauté until the greens are nicely coated with the olive oil and are heated through, about 3 minutes. Return the sausage and potatoes to the skillet and toss everything together; add the crushed red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt, if necessary, then devour.
About The Sausage
If you’re doing a Whole30, it can be tricky business to find sausage without sugar and other added junky ingredients. if you find it, YAY! Proceed and enjoy. If you can’t find any Whole30 compliant sausage, there’s a homemade alternative that’s just as tasty. Mix 1 pound ground pork (or turkey, beef, or chicken) with 1-2 tablespoons homemade Italian Sausage Seasoning. In step 4, after the potatoes are browned, crumble the seasoned ground meat into the pan and cook until it’s browned, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
You Know How You Could Do That?
To give this an Asian flair, omit the Italian sausage, add a few splashes of coconut aminos (or homemade substitute) during the final sauté, and drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil before serving.
Put an egg on it! Top the whole shebang with a few fried eggs for more luscious protein.