Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans

The bitterness of the broccoli rabe, the sweetness of the white beans and the crunch of the toasted pine nuts create a taste sensation that, all at once, startles and soothes. If you can’t find broccoli rabe, substitute another bitter green, like curly endive.

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans
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Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe, heavy stems removed and flowers coarsely chopped
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 - 2 (16 ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed until the water runs clear or 2 - 4 cups cooked white beans
  • ½ pound medium sized, shaped pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or conchiglie
  • 1 cup pine nuts
Instructions
  1. Heat a large non stick skillet over a medium flame and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic and cook until just turning golden. Add broccoli rabe, stir and cook for about 3 - 5 minutes or until the rabe begins to brighten. Raise heat to high, add red pepper flakes and white beans and cook until the beans are heated through, about 3 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees or turn on toaster oven.
  3. Place pine nuts on an ungreased baking sheet or toaster rack and bake until they turn golden, about 10 minutes. Check occasionally. Set aside to cool.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta water. Add pasta water to broccoli rabe mixture and stir to combine. Add pasta and stir. Just prior to serving, add toasted pine nuts.

Broccoli rabe (pronounced rah-bay), also called rapini and broccoli di rape, is an intense, bitter tasting green popular in both Italian and Chinese cooking. High in vitamins A and C and low in calories, it is available all year long and can be kept, wrapped, for several days in the refrigerator.

Broccoli rabe is sold in bunches usually kept together with a wire tie and should be purchased only when it is dark green and tightly packed. If the flowers have started to turn light green or yellow, this bunch is not for you. The best way to clean it is to rinse it thoroughly and shake off the water: if you are using it in chopped form, separate the florets, remove the heavy stems only and chop up the remaining stems; the best way to cook it is quickly, whether you boil, steam, stir fry or saute it.