Cime di rapa is in season and this wonderful green has taken the food world by storm. The most common ways to eat it are with sausage (pork, if you will) with pasta and atop bread. This cime di rapa sausage pasta is full of flavours and goodness from this wonderful Winter green and yet is so easy to prepare for a nutritious weeknight dinner!
What is cime di rapa? It's a winter vegetable green. Cime di rapa is the singular (cime de rape is the plural) and it literally translates to "turnip tops". It is also known as Rapini at times or Friarielli in Naples and in North America it is known as broccoli rabe. Cime di rape is part of the brassica family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and cabbage. It comes as large stems with a profusion of spiked but soft green leaves with small buds that resemble small heads of broccoli. It is a vegetable grown in Central and Southern Italy and most commonly associated with the Puglia region of Italy where the dish Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa comes from.
I find cime di rapa to be a fascinating vegetable. Its taste depends on how it is cooked. If you boil or steam it, it brings out the sweetness in it and it becomes mild but if you pan fry it, it brings out its bitterness. The older the cime di rapa, the more bitter it gets. Don't be afraid to cook them down to break down the fibres as they can withstand the heat and can otherwise be quite stringy. Some don't use the stems as they can be fibrous preferring just to use the smallest stems, leaves and flowers. I just removed the bottom 2 inches and peeled the outer fibrous layer of the large stems and cooked the stems a bit longer so I pop them in to steam or boil first. Or you can slice the large stems in half.
How to serve cime di rapa? The most common ways are with sausage either with pasta (orecchiette) or on top of bread, like focaccia. The pasta was preferable on a busy day because it is super fast to make and delicious.
Which sausage to use? Ideally an Italian pork sausage is ideal. You remove the meat from the skins by slicing down the sausage vertically and peeling off the skin.
I find the difference in flavour due to the cooking method quite fascinating. It reminds me that things turn out depending on how you treat them. Teddy is a prime example. Teddy had to go to the vet the other day to get his shots. One was a needle but one was squirted up his nose. Now Teddy hates the vet and he was none too pleased at this sudden turn of events on what should have been a wonderful sunny Saturday spent at the park which is what he was expecting when he jumped into the car. He spent the whole time meeping in protest.
Mochi didn't like the vet very much either but my little girl was much more stoic and put up with it. Laura pointed out that Teddy has led a very different life to Mochi. Teddy has only known happiness, snacks, socks, peaceful naps and playing so his version of bad is very different from Mochi who was unfortunately abused by her former owners. So while Teddy's bad is a visit to the vet, Mochi's bad is so much worse in comparison the poor little thing!
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your version of bad? Have you ever tried cime di rapa?