Greens!

No-one could cook up a pot of greens like Stefano’s grandma, or Nonnetta, as she was known to us.

Rapini, sometimes called broccoli rabe, or cime di rapa in italian, were her specialty.  They were mildly bitter and perfectly seasoned from their sauté in olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper.  Served with just the right amount of liquid, she had us sopping up the juices with pieces of bread and then asking for seconds.

In Italy, it is common to boil greens and then sauté them in olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Nonnetta’s secret was to add a spoonful or two of tomato sauce – just enough to add a touch of flavor and color.

Although a staple of southern United States cooking, sadly, greens are not as readily embraced here in the northern states.  Yes, they smell a bit when boiling (Hi, come in. Sorry about the smell, we’re cooking greens), but the pungent smell is quickly forgotten in favor of their deeply satisfying, peppery taste.

Rapini are our favorite green, but we can’t always find them at our local farmer’s markets so we often use mustard greens or turnip greens instead.  They are never quite as good as Nonnetta’s, but almost.

Ingredients
1 bunch of rapini, turnip greens or mustard greens
Olive oil
Garlic
Crushed red pepper
2-3 spoonfuls sauce from whole, canned tomatoes
Salt
Crusty bread

Directions
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Wash the greens and remove the thick parts of the stems.  When the water boils, toss a handful of coarse salt into the pot, and add the greens.  Boil until tender, approximately 8-10 minutes, and drain.

Sauté 2 tablespoons olive oil, two cloves of garlic diced into small pieces, and a bit of crushed red pepper in a skillet for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is golden brown.  Add the greens and 2-3 spoonfuls of tomato sauce.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature with good bread.

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10 Responses to Greens!

  1. Rachel S says:

    Hi! I am a friend of Pat & Tammy’s and am currently living in the Napoli area. This post caught my eye because I LOVE the greens here! I am trying to figure out what “friarielli” is in English – if we even grow it – so I can find or grow it back in the States. Do you know? Thank you!

  2. duespaghetti says:

    Hi, Rachel and Elisa.

    As Elisa says, in many places in Italy, friarelli are small, fried chili peppers. However, I don’ think that is what you are referring to, Rachel.

    In Napoli, friarelli are exactly what Stefano’s grandma called cime di rapa. Italian cooking is so regional, and this is an example of how a name can differ, even between Rome and Naples. Note the addition of a second letter “i” in friarielli, compared to the more typical friarelli. This is a function of Napoletan dialect! It seems like there is another difference in preparation, too. Stefano’s grandma boiled the greens first, and then sauteed them. A bit of research suggests that in Naples, friarielli are never to be boiled first. Instead, the greens are placed directly into the hot olive oil and garlic, and the crushed red pepper is added right at the end. That, apparently, is what makes them distinctly Neapolitan, and earns them the name friarielli.

    “Rapa” is turnip, and “cime” means “top” so sometimes cime di rapa are called turnip tops in English. However, the cime di rapa that we know and the friarielli that you know are a little different that the standard turnip greens that we can sometimes find at the local farmers markets here in Minneapolis.

    We believe that your friarielli are leafy greens with little broccoli flowers, like in this photo here: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rapini.jpg. This green is called broccoli raab, broccoli rabe, or rapini in English. You should be able to find them at farmers markets, but you may have to hunt a bit. They are common in Chinese cuisine also, so you may have luck at Asian produce stands or stores.

    In Rome, we often put another green, cicoria, on pizza. I’ve heard that in Naples you can find pizza with friarielli on top. Nothing sounds better! Have one on our behalf, greet that crazy, chaotic and beautiful city of Napoli for us, and good luck in your hunt for broccoli raab upon your return!

    Cara and Stefano

  3. Lisa says:

    C’ho na fame! The rest of my family (Dutch husband and US born daughter/stepdaughters) don’t like the bitter greens. My daughter has been to Rome 5-6 times and I make them at home, but this is a part of the Italian DNA that she didn’t get. My Roman “nonnetta”, Ada (she was not quite 5 ft tall) called cime di rapa “broccoletti”. And my Basilicatan immigrant maternal grandmother, Teresa, called them broccoli raab. So I use both, depending on what side of the family I am speaking with. Love the cicoria in padella too!

  4. duespaghetti says:

    Do you have any luck finding cicoria locally, Lisa? That’s one we haven’t had luck with.

  5. Lisa says:

    As amazing as the Madison Farmers’ market is, I haven’t found real cicoria like in Rome. On the other hand, I haven’t been looking all that much. I don’t crave it the same way I crave broccoli di rape–hot from the pan, room temperature in a sandwich, sneaked cold from the refrigerator……! And like you, I make other greens. Our CSA even started growing collard greens, which I am quite fond of.

  6. PolaM says:

    la verdura ripassata e’ una delizia!it’s just too bad that greens are not as popular here as they are in Italy.

  7. Simona says:

    Pola preceded me in mentioning the Italian word, verdura ripassata (though if I remember correctly my aunt would call this dish broccoli strascinati). I have never seen cicoria here, but on the other hand, that’s something people in Italy would harvest from the fields. I love both photos!

  8. Pingback: La pasta al forno di Nonna Pierina (Nonna Pierina’s Oven-Baked Pasta) | Due Spaghetti

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