Roasted Broccoli Rabe Will Change Your Sandwiches Forever

When we think of leafy greens, we typically think of spinach, kale, and romaine, but there are a whole host of others that are as tasty as they are nutritious. One that is criminally underrated is broccoli rabe. If you've never heard of it, broccoli rabe is biologically closer to a turnip than it is to broccoli. It boasts long, thin stems and vibrant, green leaves and flowers. When cooked, this veggie tastes savory, nutty, and slightly bitter, although less bitter than when it's raw.

So, why add this leafy green to your sandwiches? Aside from its nutritional benefits (such as it being a plentiful source of vitamins A and C), its mildly bitter taste is the perfect balance for richer, creamier ingredients in a panini, sub, or grilled cheese. Although the texture softens a bit when you cook it, the stems in broccoli rabe typically provide enough bite to contrast with the softer textures of cheese, sauce, meat, or more tender cooked veggies. And, amidst all the brown-to-beige components of a grilled cheese (bread, butter, fromage), this leafy green addition brings a welcome pop of color and freshness.

How to build a sandwich with broccoli rabe

While a grilled cheese is probably the simplest sandwich you can add broccoli rabe to, the veggie also pairs well with a variety of other types. In general, you'll want to add it to a sandwich with cooked ingredients so that the leafy greens can seamlessly fit in. Aside from cheeses like fontina and mozzarella, broccoli rabe pairs well with veggies like caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted red peppers, as well as meats like prosciutto, salami, and roast pork, along with sauces like balsamic glaze, Italian dressing, and aioli. Go with crusty sourdough bread, rolls, or baguettes to hold everything together.      

You're going to want to cook your broccoli rabe in some way before adding it to a grilled cheese or other type of sandwich, as it can be pretty bitter on its own. You can roast it for about 20 minutes at 425 F, blanch it, or saute it. If you go with the former or latter method, feel free to add some olive oil and your favorite leafy green seasonings, i.e. garlic, red pepper flakes, and onion powder. The cooked stems are typically the perfect size for laying onto bread slices, but you can also chop them up first if you'd prefer. Then, layer on the rest of your ingredients and dig in.