Broccoli rabe pasta is a healthy plant forward pasta dish with broccoli rabe as the main attraction. This plant-based pasta dish is oil-free, full of healthy plant nutrients, and tasty too.
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- What is broccoli rabe?
- Pin now to save for later
- Ingredients needed to make broccoli rabe pasta
- How to make oil-free broccoli rabe pasta
- Serving suggestions for broccoli rabe pasta
- For some other plant-forward recipes from Veggie Fun Kitchen, try
- The printable recipe card for Broccoli Rabe Pasta
What is broccoli rabe?
I first became familiar with broccoli rabe when I accidentally bought it thinking it was broccolini! There are some similarities – so you can see why I was confused!
And then there is broccoli, the green “flower” vegetable we are probably most familiar with. It made me very curious about the differences between broccoli, broccolini, and broccoli rabe. Are the the same? Different? Related? Let’s find out. Read more about broccoli rabe and broccolini on Eater.
All three are cruciferous vegetables, along with cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, (and many others. They are all green with a vegetable “flower” that is eaten. Being cruciferous vegetables they are all powerhouses of plant nutrition with phytonutrients, fiber, and vitamins!
But are broccoli, broccolini, and broccoli mostly the same but with different names? No way!
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the standard American broccoli we are know and (some) love – because we all know it!
As it turns out, broccolini is a hybrid vegetable – a cross between the broccoli, as we know it, and the Chinese broccoli. It was invented in the 1990’s which might explain why I had never heard of it till a few years ago…
Broccolini has a long and (mostly) tender stem with green tender “flowers”. It’s flavor is sweeter than either broccoli OR broccoli rabe.
Broccoli rabe on the other hand is not related to the broccoli plant at all! It is also know as “rapini” and is more closely related to the turnip. Weird, huh!
Broccoli rabe is much leafier than either broccoli or broccolini and has a bitter taste the other two don’t have. Why would be choose something with a bitter taste? Well, it pairs nicely with garlic, and especially with light sauces such as my vegan Alfredo sauce.
The slightly bitter flavor can be cooked out somewhat when you blanch the broccoli rabe in boiling water for a minute, yet leaves enough behind to lend an interesting depth of flavor to dishes in which it’s served.
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Ingredients needed to make broccoli rabe pasta
- pasta – I like small shaped pasta
- vegetable broth
- onions, sliced thin
- garlic, chopped
- 6 cups broccoli rabe can also use broccolini
- cherry tomatoes
- fresh basil, sliced
- balsamic vinegar
How to make oil-free broccoli rabe pasta
Step 1: boil the water and prep the ingredients
Boil water for the pasta AND boil a pot of water so that you can blanch the broccoli rabe.
Wash the broccoli rabe and tomatoes. Cut the broccoli rabe into smaller “bite-sized” pieces including the leaves. Slice the onions and chop the garlic.
Blanch the broccoli rabe
Broccoli rabe tends to be more bitter than either broccoli or broccolini. If you are using either of those as substitutes, then skip this step.
Otherwise, boil a pot of water. Put the washed and cut broccolini in the boiling water for one minute only. Immediately take out and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Allow to drain while preparing the other ingredients.
Step 2: Cook the pasta and begin SAUTÉING the onions and garlic
If you time it just right then you will be done cooking the pasta about the same time you are done with the sautéing the broccoli rabe mixture.
Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to package directions. I like to use a small shaped pasta such as bow-tie, rigatoni, or corkscrew. Today I’m using a fun twirly pasta called cavatappi.
I sauté the onions and garlic in vegetable broth. Sautéing in broth makes this dish a healthy oil-free veggie-filled pasta meal. You can certainly sauté in oil if you prefer. It’s really not necessary for this recipe.
Start with a half cup vegetable broth. Watch your pan and add more if necessary so that it doesn’t dry up and burn.
Step 3: Continue SAUTÉING the other vegetables
After sautéing the onions and garlic for two minutes then add the cherry tomatoes and continue sautéing for another two minutes.
Next, add the blanched broccoli rabe and continue to sauté for another five minutes until the broccoli rabe is tender and the tomatoes have started to blister.
Add in the sliced basil and balsamic vinegar. Chances are, your pasta has not yet finished cooking. Simply remove from heat and cover with a lid while the pasta finishes cooking.
Step 4: Toss together with the cooked pasta
After the pasta has cooked, drain it well and add to the cooked broccoli rabe mixture. Gently toss together and serve.
Serving suggestions for broccoli rabe pasta
You can serve as is. I like to add a little vegan parm cheese on top. Today I’m using “Follow Your Heart”. You can also make your own with cashews and nutritional yeast.
Because of the slight bitter taste of the broccoli rabe , it pairs particularly well with my vegan Alfredo sauce!
This dish will keep for a few days tightly covered in your fridge.
For some other plant-forward recipes from Veggie Fun Kitchen, try
- Pasta Primavera
- Easy Sheet Pan Meal with Veggies and Chickpeas
- Pasta Sauce with Artichoke Hearts
- Roasted Pumpkin Pasta Salad
The printable recipe card for Broccoli Rabe Pasta
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Broccoli Rabe Pasta with Balsamic, Oil-Free
- 8 ounces dry pasta see notes for suggestions
- ½ cup vegetable broth may need more
- 1 cup onions sliced thin, see notes
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 6 cups broccoli rabe can also use broccolini
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup fresh basil sliced
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Start to boil the water for the pasta according to the package directions. Boil a separate pot of water to blanch the broccolini rabe. You can prepare/cook the other ingredients while the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking.
- Prepare the vegetables by chopping the broccoli rabe including the leaves and some of the stems. Avoid and hard stems near the bottom of the plant. Slice the onion, wash the tomatoes, chop the garlic, and slice the fresh basil into thin strips. Set all aside seperately.
- Cook the pasta according to directions. If you can time it to be done the same time that the broccoli rabe has finished that would be awesome. Otherwise, remove from the heat and drain. Set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking blanch the broccoli rabe by adding to a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Run under cold water immediately afterwards to stop the cooking process. Allow to drain well. If you are subbing in broccolini, you won't need to do this step.
- Line a large sauté pan with one half cup of vegetable broth. Add the sliced onion and garlic. Sauté for about 2 minutes and then add the cherry tomatoes. Continue salting for 2 more minutes.
- Add the blanched broccoli rabe to the sautéed vegetables. Continue sautéing or another 5 minutes or until broccoli rabe is tender and the tomatoes have started to blister.
- Add in the balsamic vinegar and sliced basil leaves. Cover and remove from heat until the pasta has finished cooking.
- Toss the broccoli rabe mixture together with the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve alone, with a drizzle of olive oil, your favorite pasta sauce, or try my amazing vegan alfredo. Links are in the notes,