As much as it pains me to admit, sometimes I search for alternatives to marinara sauce. The sacred tomato-carb union is one all Italians, myself included, know and love, yet there are times when I believe the rigatoni begs for a little something different. I’ve probably upset many ancestors with this shocking reveal, so I’ll go ahead and apologize now for rocking the boat.
But for those who are willing to spice things up with a tomato substitute, I highly suggest macaroni and broccoli rabe. The perfectly bitter taste pairs fabulously with pasta, chunks of sausage, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. A glass of red is not required, but highly recommended in order to add the perfect touch to your meal. Whenever I come home to mom’s, this is my go-to request. Each time I prepare broccoli rabe solo, it typically turns out like shoe leather, so my best bet is having my personal chef take a crack at it.
Since we are a family who likes to upset the apple cart—or should I say the tomato cart—there are times where my mother chooses to forgo both tomatoes and broccoli rabe with her pasta dishes. We live on the edge, folks. Sometimes broccolini makes an appearance in her kitchen, and there’s a lot to know about this broccoli rabe imposter (though a very delicious one).
Broccoli rabe (my vegetable of choice) is a member of the turnip family whereas broccolini is some sort of mesh between actual broccoli and Chinese broccoli. My number one veggie sports a bitter flavor while broccolini is a milder alternative. Munching on broccoli rabe raw probably isn’t in your best interest, but you can enjoy broccolini—complete with its tiny florets and lengthy stalks—raw or cooked.
Though there are times shoppers confuse broccoli rabe’s dark green hue and small buds for another vegetable, the good thing about these produce items is the fact that they go well with pasta and meats, and make for fantastic side dishes. If you’re looking for your dinner to go green, why not start with some of the recipes below?
Whether you’re serving chicken, veal, or some type of fish, a vegetable is always required. Sautéed broccoli rabe is the perfect side that just might steal the spotlight from the main dish. The red pepper flakes give the veggie a hot and spicy kick that will send your taste buds on a fun journey. Get our Sautéed Broccoli Rabe recipe.
If you’re looking to add a sweet and peppery flavor to your dinner, you’ve found your answer. What’s even better about this side dish is the fact that it doesn’t take long to make. All you need is olive oil, salt, pepper and a sheet pan and you’re in business. Get our Roasted Broccolini recipe.
If the family is coming over for Sunday dinner, this is a great way to pause the pomodoro and put a new spin on your pasta. It’s certainly a different mix, so you might want to reserve it for adults only. Get our Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Red Pepper Flakes, and Anchovies recipe.
Broccolini might be a staple for Italians, but it also takes Thai food to new levels. This dish offers crunchy broccolini with a kick thanks to the soy sauce. Vegetarians, rejoice. Get our Tofu and Broccolini Pad See Ew recipe.
Like Arby’s, this dish has the meat. The lemon, garlic, and broccoli rabe combo goes well over any type of carbs but is also enjoyable when topped with a fried egg. Get our Sautéed Bratwurst with Broccoli Rabe recipe.
Salivating yet? This dish will catapult you into Michelin star territory, so bring the sweet, nutty, and salty taste to your dinner guests—you won’t be sorry. Get our Grilled Lamb Chops with Broccolini and Olive-Pistachio Sauce recipe.
This baby gives you the carbs, tomatoes, and broccoli rabe, so there’s no need to choose. Who wouldn’t want to top their favorite pizza with some broccoli rabe? Excuse me while I place my take-out order. Get our Whole Wheat Margherita Pizza recipe.
Spaghetti squash is having a moment, so why not give this dish a garlic-ginger zest with the help of broccolini? Gourmande’s recipe will undoubtedly rake in all the likes on Instagram once you share your photos with like-minded foodies. Get the recipe.
If you’re not so inclined to start cooking, Homespun Caper’s raw broccolini salad provides a quick and green way to satisfy the munchies. Get the recipe.
Header image by Chowhound, using images courtesy of Shutterstock and eeetthaannn/flickr.