Part of the turnip family, rapini have long green leaves with little green tops that look like broccoli. When you buy them, always check that the tops aren’t blooming already (there will be small yellow flowers in between the leaves) and consume them quite quickly or they will turn a bit yellow and ferment.
They are a typically wintery vegetable, traditionally from southern Italy, especially from Apulia, but they are also grown in the North, for example in Lombardy.
Before you can eat them you usually need to cook them throughout this process: detach all the tops and the leaves (only throw away the ones that are hard, external and ruined) from the stems and rinse them thoroughly. Drain them, drop them in boiling, slightly salted water and let them cook for about 5-10 minutes.
At this point you can simply eat them as they are, boiled and with a few drops of olive oil and lemon juice, or you can sauté them in a pan with garlic and anchovy paste. If you stick to this preparation, make sure to wring them well (be careful not to damage the tops) and roughly chop the leaves and the bigger tops. You can serve sautéd rapini with the classic orecchiette or with spaghetti, or you could serve them as a side dish – they are delicious, both ways!