Rapini with Raisins and Hazelnuts is a festive dish with vivacious flavors. Pleasantly bitter rapini (broccoli rabe) gets tossed around in a hot skillet with olive oil, fresh garlic, tangy-sweet raisins, and a fiery punch of crushed red pepper. It’s a dish that’s holiday table special, but easy enough for a weeknight.
The key step in this recipe, one that you may be tempted to skip, is to blanch the rapini before you add it to the skillet. It’s important! It partially cooks the rapini and mellows its natural bitterness so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
Rapini (also called broccoli rabe, and less commonly broccoli raab) is a cruciferous vegetable with green stems, buds and leaves all of which are edible. Often associated with Mediterranean or Italian cuisine, rapini can be eaten cooked or raw and has a pleasant bitter flavor that is reduced by cooking.
Cooking rapini / broccoli rabe will reduce its bitter flavor. In this recipe, rapini is both blanched in boiling water and sautéed, two methods that work together to reduce any bitter taste.
To thoroughly wash rapini, submerge it in a large bowl of water. Swoosh it around to encourage all of the dirt and debris to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the washed rapini out of the water and transfer to a colander to dry. (Pouring the water into the colander along with the rapini would be pouring all of that dirt you washed out right over it again!)
Though both broccolini and rapini (broccoli rabe) have visually similar green bud clusters (florets), they are not the same plant. They aren’t even related! Broccolini is a hybrid of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and broccoli. Rapini is more closely related to the turnip.
Ingredients you need to make rapini with raisins and hazelnuts
- Rapini / Broccoli Rabe: You’ll need 2 pounds of fresh, raw rapini. Look for fresh looking bunches with perky buds and greens. Avoid those that are wilted or discolored.
- Olive Oil: Use a good, flavorful olive oil – it’s an important flavor component. (Because you’ll be cooking with it, you don’t necessarily need extra virgin olive oil.)
- Fresh Garlic: Look for plump bulbs with smooth, dry skins intact. Avoid those with soft spots and those that have begun to sprout.
- Golden Raisins: Look for plump, soft raisins. But don’t worry it they’re chewy, they’ll plump and soften as they cook.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: When crushed red pepper flakes are stored properly, i.e., away from moisture, they’ll last about 3 years. Replace sooner if they become discolored or dull.
What to serve with rapini
Rapini with Raisins and Hazelnuts makes an excellent side dish for almost any meaty main dish like Roasted Lamb Chops, Roasted Chicken or fish and seafood mains like Salmon Piccata or Shrimp Piccata. Or alongside Dry Brine Turkey and Mashed Red Potatoes on your holiday table.
And if you love rapini, don’t miss this classic Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta. Everyone loves it and it’s weeknight easy.
How to Make Rapini with Raisins and Hazelnuts
Step 1: Wash, coarsely chop and blanch rapini in salted water for 1 minute. Drain.
Step 2: Heat oil in a large skillet; cook and stir garlic and crushed red pepper for 1-2 minutes.
Step 3: Add rapini and raisins; cook and stir until rapini is tender and raisins are plump, 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with kosher salt. Transfer to platter and top with hazelnuts. Serve.
Rapini with Raisins and Hazelnuts
- 2 pounds rapini broccoli rabe
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more
- 1/4 cup golden raisins 40g
- kosher salt to taste
- 1 ounce toasted hazelnuts coarsely chopped
- Wash rapini (see recipe note #1); drain and coarsely chop.
- Heat a large pot of salted water to boil. Add rapini and cook 1 minute (working in batches if necessary); transfer rapini to colander to drain.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant and golden, 1-2 minutes. Add rapini and raisins; cook and stir until raisins are plump and rapini is tender, 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with kosher salt and transfer to platter. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and serve.
- To wash rapini, submerge in a large bowl of water. Swoosh it around to dislodge all dirt and debris. Lift out rapini and transfer to a colander to drain.
- For a fresh take on this dish, feel free to swap in dried cherries or dried cranberries for the raisins and/or toasted pine nuts for the hazelnuts.