Broccoli Rabe is a vegetable I remember my dad always eating when growing up, but for some reason, I never wanted to try it. It was just something that dad ate. Clearly I regret that now as it’s one of my favorite vegetables, with the perfect nuttiness and slight touch of bitterness. It’s amazing on pizza or in a pasta dish where there’s a bit of acid to cut that bitter flavor for those who would rather a mild green. So, naturally, I created a delicious pasta recipe of my own! This broccoli rabe pasta is filled with satisfying flavors, rich in nourishing carbohydrates, plant based protein and many essential nutrients to keep you energized for your busy life.
Pasta: Nutrient Density
I get it. You hear over and over to avoid carbs, but hopefully you’ve learned better over here by now. Carbohydrates are an essential fuel source for the central nervous system, support activity, and provide fiber as well as other critical nutrients to support your health. Even a serving (1 cup cooked) of white pasta contains 7 grams of protein, plus iron and B-vitamins!
Still, there’s this fear of having too much of something and I continue to receive comments about how “easy” it is to overeat on foods like pasta and bread. I wrote an entire blog post about how I enjoy pasta, but if you feel that you too are always a bottomless pit with pasta, consider first if your eating experience is mindful, and next if you are eating a balance of macronutrients.
Increasing Fullness with Macronutrient Balance
If you tend to just eat plain pasta and red sauce, I might see how you can just keep going. Especially if you have gone too long without eating, are coming from a workout that was under-fueled, or tried to “save up” for the meal all day long. But, consider meals where you have a salad or eat pasta along with adequate protein, fat and a vegetable. Is it just as “easy” to eat large amounts of the food, feeling uncomfortable after?
In this meal, I’ve added additional protein and fiber with the white beans and the broccoli rabe, as well as the nut based “parm”. These foods all also contain iron and calcium, so important for the active population to support energy production and bone health. The tomatoes add another pop of vitamin C (broccoli rabe offers it, too!) to increase the absorption of plant-based iron (more on that in a Fit Kitchen video coming this fall!).
How to Improve Satisfaction from Food
Well, I briefly covered how to improve nutrient balance to increase fullness. How about actually feeling satisfied though? You know, the feeling when you ate something delicious so you’re not craving something else?
You need to consider texture and flavor here. If you like your pasta with a little bite, by all means cook it al dente. If you’re not into that, go with the higher end of the cooking time to increase enjoyment on your end. The same goes for texture of the vegetables. I recommend cooking the broccoli rabe so it’s just barely past the point of having a crunch and then cooking the tomatoes until they burst on their own and have a smooth texture.
Topping with my “nut parmesan” adds healthy fats, a bit of protein and fiber, and of course, flavor. Basil seals the deal after the dish has been cooked. You don’t want to cook the basil into the dish, but chiffonade it (definitely click that link for a video if that word is foreign to you!) and add as a garnish at the end. This process brings out the best flavor for this delicious herb.
Broccoli Rabe and White Bean Pasta
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil separated
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 8 ounce package whole wheat spaghetti or pasta of choice
- 3 cloves garlic diced
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe chopped
- 1 can cannellini or other white bean rinsed and drained
Nut "Parmesan" Alternative
- ¼ cup cashews
- ¼ cup marcona almonds
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- Heat oven to 425°F
- Toss halved tomatoes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt if desired before roasting for 20 minutes in a baking dish.
- Begin boiling water for the pasta, and cook for the length of tie indicated on your package.
- While tomatoes are cooking, add 3 tbsp olive oil and the minced garlic to a saute pan and cook for 1 minute before adding chopped broccoli rabe. Stir and cover, allowing to cook 2-3 minutes.
- Stir the broccoli rabe and add 2-3 tbsp of water before covering immediately to steam and speed up the cooking process. Either turn of/remove from heat, or cook an additional 2 minutes depending on your texture preferences.
- While the tomatoes finish cooking, add the ingredients for the nut parm alternative to a bullet blender or mini food processor. Pulse until a light fluffy texture, but do not over pulse as it will begin to stick together. Time blending will vary depending on your blender, but should be no longer than 15-30 seconds total.
- When pasta is finished cooking, add it and the white beans to the broccoli rabe, but reserve ½ cup of pasta water. Or alternatively, drain the pasta, reserving about a ½ cup of water, and then add it back to the pot along with the broccoli rabe, white beans and an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Stir the parmesan alternative into the pasta mixture.
- Chiffonade 1/4 cup of basil
- Transfer to a large serving bowl and top with tomatoes and basil before serving.