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Broccoli Rabe Pasta with Balsamic Vinegar, Oil-Free

from 10 reader reviews

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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.

broccoli rabe pasta in black bowl with red checked napkin

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!

bite-sized broccoli

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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broccoli rabe pasta in black bowl with red checked napkin and pinterest text overlay

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
ingredients for broccoli rabe pasta including pasta, broccoli rabe, vegetable broth, red onion, and basil

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.

broccoli rabe

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.

onions cooking

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.

cooking cherry tomatoes, onion, and broccoli rabe

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.

tossing together the broccoli rabe pasta

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!

broccoli rabe pasta with vegan alfredo in black bowl

This dish will keep for a few days tightly covered in your fridge.

For some other plant-forward recipes from Veggie Fun Kitchen, try

The printable recipe card for Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Did you love this recipe?

Want to share the love? It would be great if you could leave five ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ stars and even a comment. Did you know that this will help Google to find this recipe when others are looking for something similar? Thanks, Cindy

broccoli rabe pasta in black bowl with red checked napkin

Broccoli Rabe Pasta with Balsamic, Oil-Free

Broccoli Rabe is sauted without oil and combined with onion, garlic, and cherry tomatoes, drizzeld with balsamic for a delicious healthy vegetable dish to toss in with your favorite pasta.
from 10 reader reviews
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: broccoli rabe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Total Time: 29 minutes
Servings: 3
Calories: 343kcal
Author: Cindy Rainey


  • 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,


I like to use a small shaped pasta like rigatoni, corkscrew, or cavatappi.
I like to use red onion or shallots for this recipe
We blanch the broccolini to remove the slightly bitter taste. 
You can also use broccolini or broccoli. If I can get broccolini, I’ll use it instead. No need to blanch the broccolini as it is milder in taste than broccoli rabe. Same with broccoli, no need to blanch first.
Salt is to taste and not included in the nutritional information.
This can be served as is. Here are some other tasty options:
  1. Drizzle with a little olive oil (won’t be oil-free then!)
  2. Add your favorite pasta sauce. Try my homemade oil-free pasta sauce here.
  3. Toss together with my vegan and oil-free Alfredo sauce.


Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 198mg | Potassium: 537mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2531IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 130mg | Iron: 3mg

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By on November 28th, 2021

About Cindy Rainey

Veggie Fun Kitchen by Cindy Rainey
Welcome to Veggie Fun Kitchen where you will learn to recreate family favorites the plant-based/vegan way! Let me know if I can help. I'm here for you.

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2 thoughts on “Broccoli Rabe Pasta with Balsamic Vinegar, Oil-Free”

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe! Will surely have this again! It’s really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!


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