Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Recipe and The Scent of Spring


Vibrant green scents are indelibly associated with spring—the sticky sap covering young buds, the first green blades of grass, the delicate fragrance of spring flowers. In perfumery, the family of green notes is extensive, ranging from the essences of galbanum, petitgrain, basil, and violet leaf to the recreations of fig leaves, ivy, fresh cut grass and cucumber skin. The classical green grand parfums like Balmain Vent Vert, Estee Lauder Alliage and Chanel No 19 rely on the vegetal verdancy of galbanum for an explosive green effect, while Bond no 9 Gramercy Park, Chanel Bel Respiro and Marc Jacobs Grass are accented with the new generation of aroma-materials that give them a more subtle green facet. Admittedly, I find the modern green compositions too tame for my taste, especially when my spring scent explorations lead to such intense discoveries on the market stands as bitterly green dandelion leaves, spicy kale and my absolute favorite—broccoli rabe (also known as broccoletti, broccoli di rape, cime di rapa, raab or rapini.)

The intensely green scent of broccoli rabe is accented with a wonderful peppery note, which sets it apart from the more familiar bunched broccoli. It has small clusters, long crunchy stems and abundant foliage. Its taste is likewise green, yet undeniably bitter, which is usually tempered by blanching. This spring, while I figure out how to capture such an exhilarating greenness in perfume, I have been making a rather simple dish of pasta that showcases the vibrant beauty of broccoli rabe. This combination of the wheaty taste of pasta with greens, olive oil, garlic, black pepper and chili pepper is one of those perfect pairings that, in my opinion, cannot be improved upon (although some grated parmesan is a welcome addition.) Why do I love this dish so much? Well, beside its great taste, it is super easy to assemble, it takes about 20 minutes from pan to table, and it looks very festive on the plate. And should I mention that broccoli rabe is one of the most healthful foods available?

I wish I could take any credit for this recipe, but it is a traditional Italian dish that can be found in various regions of the country. Another delicious combination I tried was a Ligurian version, in which potato cubes were added along with broccoli rabe. Just google “pasta with broccoli rabe,” and you will discover numerous variations. Or check out Mark Bittman’s recipe of spaghetti with broccoli rabe, toasted garlic and bread crumbs in the New York Times.


Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Garlic, Black Pepper and Olive Oil


Serves 2 as a one dish meal; 4 if part of a multi-course dinner

1 bunch of broccoli rabe
1/2lb (250g) of pasta (I like short shapes like penne or fusilli, but it is up to you)
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
¼-1/2 teaspoon red hot chili flakes
salt, pepper


Actually, there is hardly a recipe to write. Place a large pot filled water to boil. Salt it well once boiling. Meanwhile, wash broccoli rabe, making sure that there is no sand left clinging to the leaves. Cut it into ½ inch pieces, stalks and leaves included. Set aside.

Once the water comes to boil, add your choice of pasta and stir. Set the timer for the necessary time, as specified on the pasta packet. 5-7 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli rabe.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan, add minced garlic and chili flakes. Garlic will take only a few seconds to turn pale gold, which is all that is needed. Remove from the heat.

Cook pasta till al dente (broccoli should be done by this time as well) and drain, reserving a little bit of its cooking water. Toss pasta and greens into the garlic scented oil, stir to coat, add lots of freshly ground black pepper—it serves to accentuate the delicious peppery bite of broccoli rabe—and serve immediately. Drizzle with some more olive oil and sprinkle parmesan on top, if desired. Even if spring is a bit late this season, I promise that the fragrance of this dish will make up for it!

Photography © Bois de Jasmin.



  • Marina: Pribezhala ryscoj chitat’ 🙂 I love when the greens are peppery, and the dish is something that even I can make, adore this kind of satisfying, fresh rustic simplicity. I am so hungry right now 🙂 April 18, 2009 at 10:29am Reply

  • Style spy: YUM! Rapini is my favorite vegetable, I make this all the time. Mmmm, now I’m hungry. April 18, 2009 at 11:10am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Marina, it is very easy, hardly much needs to be done–boil water, chop vegetables, saute garlic, toss, eat. Rustic simplicity is my favorite kind. 🙂 April 18, 2009 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Style spy, I had to edit the Name part of your comment, otherwise it threw the formatting of the comment area off. Something strange is happening with the comments section today.

    I also love rapini made the same way–blanched and tossed with garlic–as a side dish. That is something I can eat every day. April 18, 2009 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Dusan: YUM, YUM, and I’ll say it again, YUM! 🙂
    It’s supergreat to see you back, Vika, and thanks for this delicious recipe!
    And ~ wishing you a very happy Easter! April 18, 2009 at 12:38pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Oh how lovely to see you back! I was just having a little wave of regret that I don’t get to read you anymore, and was about to write you a note saying so when I came over here just one more time and…behold! A little Easter basket full of posts to read. Hurrah!

    I have a wonderful old book called The Fragrant Garden — all essays, and just a few line drawings–I believe it came out in the twenties. I will have to look for it for you.

    Central Park is full of Lindens, and they grow elsewhere in the city, too. I once found a web page with a Linden Tree map of NYC on it.

    And finally — I had already planned to be back in the city on the weekend of the Fragrance Expo, so I suppose I will have to at least stop in…

    Hoping you are well and happy, V. April 18, 2009 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Dusan, Happy Easter to you! Xristos Voskrese! April 20, 2009 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Alyssa, do let me know when you are back in the city. It was a bit hectic the last time, I did not even manage to do half I planned.

    I did not know about the map of flowering trees, sounds like something I need to research. Central Park is incredible–it is amazing that there is such a vast forested area in the middle of the city. April 20, 2009 at 12:24pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Hi V.! I wanted to make your recipe for a perfumer dinner tonight: Vero Kern was over from Zurich, and I had another perfume-loving friend over from San Diego. Unfortunately, even La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché doesn’t stock broccoli rabe… I’ll have to keep an eye open, but I suspect this might be a hard ingredient to find in Paris, unfortunately. Well, c’est l’intention qui compte! April 20, 2009 at 6:19pm Reply

  • Flora: I adore galbanum and all things Green in perfume!

    This dish sounds very much like one I like to make with Italian Lacinato kale, which has a similar green intensity to Broccoli di Rapa. I like to mix in a little fruity grapeseed oil and some homemade pesto,and if I am feeling fancy I throw in some aged fig balsamic vinegar. Yum! April 21, 2009 at 3:49pm Reply

  • Trish: The simple dishes are always the best aren’t they? Thanks for sharing this one, sounds delicious! April 21, 2009 at 11:56pm Reply

  • Ina: Hi, V.! This sounds so good! But I’m not sure I can find broccoli rabe around here. But I imagine you can substitute it with some other greens. 🙂 Good to see you posting. Am definitely up to it myself but still keep checking my fave blogs. 🙂 April 22, 2009 at 1:48am Reply

  • Ina: Oops! Meant to say “not” up to it. 😉 April 22, 2009 at 1:49am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: D, I wanted to comment earlier, but was completely swamped. You can make this recipe with almost any sort of dark, leafy green, just adjust the time accordingly. Roquette/arugula works really well, especially if you add little cubes of cured jamon when sauteeing garlic. Roquette will need but a minute of blanching though.

    I would also check little markets. I recall seeing vegetables like rabe on Rue Cler. April 23, 2009 at 8:58am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Flora, I read your comment the other day, and I immediately had to rush out for lunch–you made it very hungry. 🙂 Kale would work well. so would young collard greens for that matter. April 23, 2009 at 8:59am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Trish, my pleasure! I love cooking, and I do not shy away from dishes that take several hours (if not days) to prepare, but my day-to-day cooking has to be fairly simple. April 23, 2009 at 9:02am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Inochka, so nice to see you here!!!
    You can use something else instead, even spinach (but I would add little cubes of some smoked or cured meat to the garlic, since spinach is blander.) Even regular broccoli would work. April 23, 2009 at 9:05am Reply

  • leopoldo: You know, Cima di Rapa is so easy to grow – there are at least three types – ones that produces flower heads after 45 days, 60 days, 90 days. The 90 days tastes the best and I like to eat it this time of year as much as purple sprouting broccoli (I grow both).

    The chili is a great addition. Classic Italian seasonal fare! April 24, 2009 at 3:49am Reply

  • Phyllis A. Iervello: I love Brocoli Rabe…and this is one of my favorite pasta dishes. Most people I know don’t even know what Brocoli Rabe is. My mouth is watering just looking at the photo. April 24, 2009 at 10:10am Reply

  • michelyn: Congratulations on your FIFI. well deserved Victoria!

    michelyn April 24, 2009 at 10:42pm Reply

  • carter: Hi Veronica — have been reading your blog for years and am a great fan, but I’ve never posted before. I made your broccoli rabe pasta dish tonight and it was absolutely delicious — thank you!

    Perfumistas can do it all 😉 April 25, 2009 at 7:53pm Reply

  • Tania: I made the same thing just two weeks ago! We are in phase. I haven’t made my ritual spring dandelion salad yet, but I will as soon as a bunch turns up in the market.

    Three things:

    (1) Half a handful of chopped black olives has been known to do the dish no harm. Anchovies sneak in easily too, but in very small, minced-to-oblivion quantities.

    (2) A distinct and unusual flavor stood out this time, in the direction of cinnamon, which I’d never noticed alone before, and which distinguishes broccoli rabe from the rabble of all other leaves and cruciferous vegetables.

    (3) The traditional pasta shape to use is orecchiette (the “little ears”), in case one is feeling traditional (and it is delightful to eat it with a large spoon, greedily). April 26, 2009 at 12:34am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Leopoldo, when do you plant it ? The trouble I have with some of the plants in its family is that in our area we go from winter to summer within hours. There is no transition. I find that the stalks never develop properly. Perhaps, I am just planting too late, but it is only my second season planting on the East Coast, so I will need to experiment more. April 27, 2009 at 10:20am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Leopoldo, when do you plant it ? The trouble I have with some of the plants in its family is that in our area we go from winter to summer within hours. There is no transition. I find that the stalks never develop properly. Perhaps, I am just planting too late, but it is only my second season planting on the East Coast, so I will need to experiment more. April 27, 2009 at 10:20am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Phyllis A. Iervello, it was such a nice discovery for me too! I find that I can eat this vegetable every day and only crave more of it. Alas, the season is almost over till the fall. April 27, 2009 at 10:22am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Michelyn, thank you very much! April 27, 2009 at 10:22am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Carter, oh, I am so happy to hear that the dish turned out well and that you liked it! Cooking and perfumery are so close in my opinion (perhaps, even closer than music and perfumery as it is commonly seen.)

    P.S. It is Victoria. 🙂 April 27, 2009 at 10:25am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: T, many wonderful ideas, thank you! I will implement them at some point, especially the olive addition. We have been having this dish so often this spring, especially since I realize how fleeting the season of truly delicious broccoli rabe tends to be. April 27, 2009 at 10:28am Reply

  • carter: Victoria–
    Oy…of course it is…slip of the fingers 😉 April 29, 2009 at 12:10am Reply

  • Bois de Jasmin: Carter, no worries! 🙂 April 29, 2009 at 11:15am Reply

  • iodine: I’m browsing through your blog a lot, lately, and find it really full of interesting posts, well written and colourful: a true delight to read, and a source of precious suggestions and informations on perfume and other pleasures of life! I just wanted to tell you.
    Tonight I’m cooking pasta con le cime di rapa, in a richer version- I add small cubes of gorgonzola (a rather strong and piquant northern Italy blue cheese, in case you haven’t met it!) just before serving. The sweetish piquancy of the cheese marries perfectly with the earthy bitterness of the cime di rapa. In the plain version, I usually also add anchovies and/or capers, and sprinkle with Pecorino cheese.
    Again, my congratulations for your beautiful blog. February 11, 2011 at 1:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you very much for your kind words!
    Also, thank you for the suggestion of using gorgonzola. I love this cheese, and I usually eat it just with pears and walnuts, but as an addition to this pasta dish, it sounds just mouthwatering. In general, I think that this pasta is the most popular dish in my household, and I love play with different variations. I will try yours over the weekend. February 11, 2011 at 2:14pm Reply

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