CIME DI RAPA and pasta

This is the season for Cime di rapa and I can’t get enough of them.

Unfortunately this green leafy vegetable that is in season now (winter) can be hard to find, even at the Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne). Gus and Carmel who have a stall at the QVM called Il Fruttivendelo (Frutti+ vendelo= fruit+ seller) have bunches of Cime di rapa. A fruttivendolo doesn’t only sell fruit, and as this well stocked stall attests, they have a wide range of seasonal fruit and vegetables; some that you will have trouble to find anywhere else, for example, I buy prickly pears, chicory, endives and much more.

The only other person who sometimes has Cime di rapa is John from Tomato City.

And by the way, another vegetable that is difficult to source is artichoke and both of these stalls sell them, in season of course.

I have seen bunches of Cime di rapa in greengrocers in the suburbs, at least those that have Italian proprietors. You won’t have any trouble finding them in Adelaide as most greengrocers are owned by Italians.

Italians mostly refer to them as Cime (tops or tips). A rapa is a turnip, Cime di rapa are turnip tips or tops, perhaps they are called this because this green leafy vegetable is a mustard tasting green, like turnips. As you see they look a bit like broccoli and they have a yellow flower.

As for my recent jaunt to the Dandenong Market, while Cime may have eluded me, the diversity of fresh produce on display was nothing short of mesmerizing The quality was superb, and the prices were amazingly cheap. Not surprisingly, there were very good looking, high quality, fresh zucchini, eggplants and okra at all the stalls.

Amidst the chatter of countless languages, the market’s vibrancy was enormous. I say not surprisingly, as the produce vendors and shoppers reflected the rich tapestry of cultures that live in Dandenong.

The City of Greater Dandenong is the most culturally diverse community in Australia, with residents from 157 birth places and 64 per cent of its population born overseas.

Among the more than 130 different languages spoken are Vietnamese, Khmer, Chinese, Greek, Albanian, a large Indian population especially Punjabi, Pakistani, Afghan, Sri Lankan and Sinhalese.

When it comes to sourcing ingredients, I’m no stranger to the busy streets of Melbourne’s CBD and I have no problems finding Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and Chinese ingredients, but I go to Dandenong mainly for the array of Indian hard to source treasures. That recent excursion yielded spices, dhal, and pickles;each ingredient an undertaking of culinary endeavours to come.

I was really keen to cook Cime that night and came home via a greengrocer that would have them, and they did.

Cime di rapa

Most cooks who are familiar with this green leafy vegetable are also familiar with the most popular and common ways of cooking them to dress short pasta, especially orecchiette – (little ears shaped pasta, photo above). The greens are usually softened/cooked first and then tossed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli. It is a Southern Italian dish (made popular in Puglia, Bari is the capital city). Cows are widespread in the North, sheep in the South and therefore it is fitting that the grated cheese to top the pasta is Pecorino, made from sheep’s milk. Parmigiano is made from cow’s milk, leave that for Northern pasta dishes.

My relatives in Sicily (and most likely in other Italian regions) boil the greens in quite a bit of salted water and once the greens are drained they reserve the water to cook the pasta.

The drained greens are sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, chilli and garlic. The vegetable water flavours the pasta and sometimes tinges that pasta green. It is a nice touch, but I prefer to sauté the cleaned greens without cooking them first. I like to concentrate the flavour of the vegetables and keep a little bit of crunch – not Italian at all.

Most of the time I add anchovies to the hot oil before adding the chilli and garlic. The anchovies dissolve easily in the hot oil before I add and sauté the chilli and garlic, and finally. Omit the salt if you are adding anchovies.

Cime cooked the same way are great as a side vegetable, so forget the cavolo nero, silverbeet, kale and spinach, try Cime instead.

There are other ways to cook Cime as an accompaniment to pasta. Popular is the addition of good pork and fennel Italian sausages, but most of the time I like to cook the Cime (with or without the pork sausages) with pulses – particularly chickpeas, cannellini or borlotti beans. With the pork sausages I tend to favour borlotti, they taste more meaty.

Sometimes I use feta instead of grated cheese. It is much creamier and definitely not Italian. One of the highlights of residing in a multicultural country is that one can mix and match without having a Italian looking over your shoulder.

I keep the feta in extra virgin olive oil and herbs in my fridge. Use tough herbs like Bay leaves and Thyme. Dried Oregano, fennel seeds, peppercorn or chilli flakes ate good but not soft herbs or fresh garlic… these oxidise and  rot.

Red tomatoes are also a good addition. In winter tomatoes are out of season, so if you are not able to use fresh tomatoes one tin is sufficient – toss chopped tomatoes and their juice in a saucepan, add a glug of extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 garlic cloves some fresh basil (seems to be for sale all year round) or some oregano (fresh or dried), a little salt and reduce it as you would to make a tomato salsa to dress pasta. Add the tomato salsa to the sautéed Cime cooked with or without anchovy. If you are using pomodorini as I am in the photos below , you may prefer to just sauté the tomatoes. I rather like the explosion of flavour that pomodorini provide.

Leave the above sauce as it is or add a cup or so of chickpeas, cannellini or borlotti.


There is very little waste (if any) because the larger stems that can be tough can be stripped of their outer peel.

Whether served as a comforting pasta dish or as a humble side, Cime di rapa with their depth of flavour do it for me every time.

Other information and recipes about Cime di Rapa (also referred to in the plural as Cime di rape).

CIME DI RAPE (or Rapa) with pasta, anchovies and lemon peel



EDIBLE WEEDS: Orecchiette e Broccoletti Selvatici (and cime di rape)

CIME DI RAPE (A winter green)


I really like winter vegetables, the variety is immense, the quality outstanding.

Winter vegetables include: artichokes, Asian greens, avocado, beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cardoons, carrot, catalogna, cauliflower, cavolo nero, celeriac, celery, chicory, cime di rapa, cucumber, daikon, endive, fennel, kale, Kohl Rabi, lamb’s lettuce, leek, lettuces, mushrooms, okra, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, radicchio, radish, rocket, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, swede, sweet potato, turnip, watercress and witlof.

When I look at the above list of vegetables I know that I have not included recipes on my blog for the following vegetables: daikon, okra, parsnip, shallots, swede and probably turnip. This is not to say that I don’t use these vegetables, but   I tend to write more about Mediterranean vegetables.

My blog is called All Things Sicilian and More and I have written many recipes for winter vegetables. Although the “and More” in the title of my blog is supposed to imply that I cook more than Sicilian food, I tend to write about Italian cooking because this is my background, the cooking of my childhood and the basis of my cooking.

I use Asian greens in my cooking as well, and I particularly enjoy mustard greens, that I have cooked as I cook cime di rapa with pasta. I cook Chinese green leafy vegetables as I cook European leafy greens: stir fried in extra virgin oil and garlic. Sometimes I add anchovies and sometimes chillies.

During this season, I will revisit some recipes that include winter vegetables and the vegetables I have chosen to begin with are two chicories: Cicoria and Catalogna.

Cicoria – Chicory

Catalogna is a variant of cicoria. In Italy is also called Puntarelle or cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago: asparago means asparagus and this name is very appropriate as the plant looks like a head of shoots.

Catalogna (Puntarelle) has leaves that look like large leaves of chicory and dandelions, but more pointy and narrower; its leaves and shoots have the same bitter taste. And I love bitter greens.

Like chicory, the young and tender shoots of Catalogna can be eaten raw in salads. It is common to soak the puntarelle shoots in ice water for a while so that they curl. and then to dress them with a vinaigrette with anchovies and garlic. They are delicious.

Dressing with anchovies: 500g- 1 kilo puntarelle, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1tbs of vinegar, 3-4 anchovies, 1 clove of garlic. Pound the anchovies and garlic, add the oil and vinegar.

I have been writing about cicoria and puntarelle for a very long time.

This post was published on Nov 9, 2009 and it is worth looking at:

CICORIA and Puntarelle (Chicory)

There are other posts with recipes and information about chicory:

CICORETTA CON SALSICCIA (Chicory with fresh pork sausage)

WANT NOT WASTE NOT- Chicken livers and chicory, twice

 BITTER GREENS and AMARI (Aperitivi and Digestivi)