Broccoli Rabe – the unusual appeal of bitter

Hi there,

Did you ever try something to eat and find the taste appalling and then return to it years later and find it very appealing? This is precisely what happened to me with Broccoli Rabe.

When I married into my Italian American family, broccoli rabe was a vegetable that made an appearance with regularity at meals served in my husband’s parent’s home. My mother in law was extremely fond of this vegetable. One time my mother in law, Linda, ate so much of it that she had to go to the hospital because of intense indigestion she suffered from the copious amount of broccoli rabe that she had eaten. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

I found the taste to be nasty and vile and pushed it around on my plate and made sure I jumped up to clear the table so I could dispose of it without being found out.

Fast forward 30 years and I am at a restaurant and broccoli rabe is being served. Darn, I thought, if that stuff doesn’t smell good. Since everything deserves a second taste, I put that brilliant emerald green vegetable into my mouth. And, wow, now I’m a believer. Now I even have my own favorite way to prepare it.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

What is food to one man is bitter poison to others. ” Lucretius


  • Salt
  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe, stalks trimmed and quartered crosswise
  • 12 ounces dried orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound spicy pork sausage, casings removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup or more freshly grated Parmesan cheese (one can never have enough cheese)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Strain the broccoli rabe, reserving all the cooking liquid. Set the broccoli rabe aside. Cook the orecchiette in the same pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until the sausage is brown and juices form, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add the pasta and enough reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten. Stir the Parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and pepper into the pasta mixture. Transfer to pasta bowls and serve.

Special note: If you are not on a low carb diet a can of cannelloni beans sautéed with the sausage is a lovely addition. Also, if you really detest rabe, replace it with broccolini or spinach. If you don’t have orecchiette in the pantry, any other small toothsome pasta will do such a penne. The pork sausage can be replaced with chicken sausage but make sure it is spicy chicken sausage and be a tad more generous with your crushed red pepper flakes.

Talk soon, ❤️💕Bernadette

30 responses to “Broccoli Rabe – the unusual appeal of bitter”

  1. I just don’t love kale. Everything else green is wonderful to me. I just watched Joe Bastianich make a similar pasta with broccoli rabe, but no sausage. Both versions look wonderful!

  2. Hi Bern! Broccoli Rabe is a favorite of mine. Truth be told, I ate it almost everyday of my pregnancies. I will try this recipe this week!!
    As always, thank you for sharing! ❤️

  3. I used to hate broccoli, but once I started roasting it with garlic and Parmesan it became a favorite…I don’t think I’ve ever had broccoli rabe, I’ll have to try it!

  4. So funny how our tastes evolve, isn’t it? Your mother-in-law was a huge fan to eat herself to the hospital! I’m glad you tried it again and found a delicious way to serve it, Bernadette. And you’re right… you can never have enough cheese. Lol. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. That looks spectacular. I wish restaurants weren’t so annoying these days. I’d be out dining on this sort of great food often.

    And no–I don’t have the patience to cook it! I wish I did.

      • Jacqui, consider this your invitation. What I need is a recipe and a story and a photo is really appreciated. I work through my email which is I look forward to our collaboration.

      • A question for you: My husband is looking for low-salt recipes laid out like daily menus, that tells him what to eat each day, and then the next. He could pick recipes but he wants one that tells him. And then tells how much salt is in each meal. Is there such a book?

      • His best bet is to put in a search engine – dash diet meal planner. There are apps that he might like and also different sites offering help.

        Good luck



  6. Bern, I love broccoli rabe, I love sausage and I love pasta. SOLD! This will be on our table sometime this week. I’ll let you know how it turns out! Thanks for another great recipe that makes my mouth water!

  7. funny how our tastes in food and other things can change over time. when i was young, i didn’t like capsicum for instance but i just kept eating it till i loved it! i do like bitter flavours i must say.

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.

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