Cime di rapa (“turnip tops”), broccoli di rapa, broccoletti di rapa, and colloquially, rape or rapini are the Italian terms for what the Americans call “broccoli raab.” The vegetable was virtually unknown when I was growing up in the States. Today, the pleasingly bitter greens the southern Italians love have become mainstream but they are rarely cooked correctly. Whether prepared in restaurants or carry-out shops, I find they are often too bitter–the result of not par-boiling first, or undercooking. This is not a vegetable to cook al dente!
This is the Italian way to prepare rapini:
Using a sharp paring knife, peel the tough skins from the tough lower stalks (most of the bottom portion of the stalk) and cut them cross-wise into 3-inch lengths. Cut the tops into similar-sized pieces and proceed with the recipe. To take the edge off the bitterness, soak in cold water for up to an hour or so before cooking. Keep in mind that cooking time varies from 2-6 minutes total, depending on the age of the greens and the toughness of the stems.
Just the other day, the excellent cooking website, Leite’s Culinaria, featured my favorite recipe for rapini, given to me by my friend, Viola Buitoni, a direct descendant of the Buitoni family, producers of pasta and chocolate since the early 19th century. This homey dish (published in my book, Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul) is typical of the simple yet intensely flavored food of Italy. In case you missed it, here is the LINK.