Broccolini vs Broccoli: What’s the Difference? | Cooking School

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By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

Though their names and appearance are similar, broccoli, broccolini and broccoli rabe are three distinct vegetables. Here, we break down their differences and share our favorite ways to cook with them.

Although these hardy green veggies have similar names and boast firm, green stalks and leafy florets, they belong to different plant families and have subtle differences.

Broccoli has thick, crunchy stems with heads comprised of tightly clustered florets. It has an earthy flavor with a bitter tinge. It’s a versatile veggie that can be eaten raw in salads or on crudité platters, or baked, steamed, blanched or sauteed for side dishes. But we really love roasting broccoli to draw out its earthy-sweet side. Before cooking, be sure to trim the tough outer peel of the stalk. If cooking the stem alongside florets, slice the stem into roughly ¼-inch thick rounds to ensure that it cooks at a similar rate to the florets.

Broccoli goes from side dish to headliner in this fan-favorite chicken stir-fry recipe. Using both the florets and the stems helps bulk up the dish and cut down on waste, plus the stems add a pleasing visual and textural contrast.

This recipe will make roasting broccoli your new favorite way to eat it. Florets and sliced stems are arranged in an even layer on a baking sheet, then popped into a super-hot oven until the edges are crispy and the stems crisp-tender.

A blanch-then-sear method is ideal for creating a vibrant broccoli dish that retains a firm crunch with a balanced earthy-sweetness that’s further amplified by the chili-flake-and-garlic infused oil. File this one under easy, go-to veggie sides.

Broccolini have long, firm stalks and leafy florets with small leaves. Broccolini tastes milder and sweeter than broccoli. Because its stalks are thinner, broccolini require less prep work than broccoli (which tend to have woodier stalks). Broccolini lends itself to roasting, grilling, sauteing and steaming.

It takes just 5 minutes over high heat for grilled broccolini to hit their sweet spot. You could serve as-is but chopping and adding to a medley of white beans, sliced salami and hot cherry peppers makes for a salad that’s equally at home on the dinner table or picnic mat.

Chopped broccolini stir-fried in butter adds an ideal earthy-sweet complement to a plate of creamy risotto and sweet Italian sausage. Plus, it adds a vibrant pop of color and crunch.

White pies with greens are a classic, but we especially love how the caramelized edges of the roasted broccolini play off the bubbly, gooey mix of ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano. A flurry of fresh herbs pulls it all together.

Broccoli rabe is the most bitter of the bunch, so treat it as you would other bitter greens (like mustard or turnip greens). Try blanching it or steaming it to soften the stalks and leaves or firing it under the broiler to mellow out the bitterness. Because of its slender profile, broccoli rabe cooks faster than broccoli and broccolini.

Chopping broccoli rabe into 1-inch pieces before dropping it into salted boiling water ensures even cooking results. After a quick blanch, broccoli rabe gets seared in a hot pan slicked with olive oil and chili flakes, perfect for accompanying meatballs or tossing with spaghetti.

Broccoli rabe and sweet Italian sausage are a perfect pasta pairing. Here, broccoli rabe is blanched to retain its bright green color and crisp-tender texture, then chopped into bite size pieces before getting finished in reserved pan drippings for a savory one-two punch that elevates simply dressed orecchiette.

With its quick-cooking temperament, broccoli rabe lends itself nicely to a gentle simmer in a mix of olive oil, garlic, broth and red pepper flakes. The result is a flavorful sandwich topping that really makes deli-sliced roast beef sing. Make a double-batch and use the garlicky greens to top sandwiches, salads and grain bowls.