April 17, 2024

Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans

Bright, bitter and creamy, this recipe for Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans works equally well as a side dish alongside a roasted chicken or as a standalone vegetarian main.

Years ago, I was with a group of friends talking about the dishes that our mothers made all the time and that became our idea of comfort food. One of the women said that her Italian-American mom made broccoli rabe and cooked it with lots of lemon and white beans.

We all quizzed her like crazy: Was this a dish her grandmother had made, too? (Yes! ) Was it a weeknight dish? (Yes! ) Did her mom make it for holidays? (Yes! )

We were so intrigued that something bitter, tart, and garlicky would be considered comfort food – the rest of us had been thinking about creamy, toasty, cheese-y things!

She told us how to make this broccoli rabe dish, convincing us that a mildly bitter green cooked in a skillet with hot oil would be something that we, too, would love. So I went home and made the dish, and I’ve been making it ever since.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon


Broccoli rabe (also known as broccoli de rape and rapini) looks similar to the broccoli we all know, but it has pencil-thin stalks, lots of leaves, and tiny florets.

This green vegetable has an assertive bitter flavor when raw, but a quick blanch in boiling water helps tame the flavor, leaving just a hint. For this recipe, cut the thicker stalks in half lengthwise and then cut them into shorter lengths to help them blanch more quickly and make them easier to eat.

White beans with rapini and white beans

To serve this broccoli rabe, I like to sauté lemon slices in olive oil to tenderize them – they soak up all the oil in the pan and taste delicious. Then I add canned white beans, sliced garlic, and crushed red pepper.

Finally, I return the blanched rabe to the pan and let everything cook for a few minutes to bring the flavors all together.

As delicious as this recipe is, broccoli rabe never really became one of my own comfort foods – I didn’t grow up on it like my friend did. However, this recipe with lemons and beans has become a go-to side dish. I make it whenever I want an interesting green to serve with something simple like pork chops or roast chicken.

Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans Recipe
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup water, or more if needed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
  • Extra crushed red pepper, for serving

1 Prepare the broccoli rabe: Cut any thick stems (with leaves still attached) in half lengthwise. Then cut all the stems into 4-inch pieces.

2 Blanch the broccoli rabe: Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook for 1 minute, turning them in the water occasionally so they cook evenly.

Drain and rinse with very cold water until the broccoli is no longer warm. Pat dry with paper towels.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon

2 Cook the lemon slices: In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the lemon slices, overlapping if necessary, and cook without disturbing for 2 minutes. Turn and cook the other sides for 2 minutes more. The slices should be browned in spots. Transfer to a clean plate.

Broccoli Rabe with White Beans and Lemon

3 Warm the white beans: In the same skillet over medium heat (no need to clean), heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic, white beans, red pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 minute more.

Rapini with White Beans and Lemon warm the beans

4 Add the broccoli rabe to the pan and cook: Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until it is tender when the stems are pierced with the tip of a knife. During cooking, add more water if the pan seems dry. Stir in the lemon slices and turn them in the mixture until the slices are just heated through.

Broccoli Rabe with White Beans and Lemon cook the broccoli

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Serve with lemon and red pepper.

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