Pasta with broccoli rabe was a dish my family made quite often when I was growing up. It holds a special place in my heart no matter how much I hated the bitterness of the broccoli rabe. If you’ve never had broccoli rabe, (also known as rapini) it is pungent, bitter and sharp tasting. That being said, it goes really well with a drizzle of olive oil, sauted garlic and red pepper flakes.
I have an acquired taste for rapini now that I’m older however, if bitter vegetables put you off, an alternative for broccoli rabe is broccolini. Broccolini looks similar to broccoli rabe, however it is sweeter and tastes more like regular broccoli.
Pasta with broccoli rabe is a classic Italian dish that normally features either sliced Italian sausage or crumbled Italian sausage. Today we will be making it with crumbled Italian tofu “sausage.” Italian sausage has fennel seeds in it. Fennel seeds are those crunchy bits you bite into that have a peppery taste to them. It is the most important ingredient to making the tofu taste like sausage so I wouldn’t skip it.
This dish is incredibly easy to make despite you maybe having to go out and find fennel seeds. In the end you will see how worth it it all is, I promise you friend!
- 1 brick firm tofu (14 oz), drained
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or temari for gluten free
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil for sauteing
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound small pasta like bow ties, penne, or orrecchiette (use GF pasta if gluten free)
- 15 oz broccoli rabe cut into 3 inch pieces *see notes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- fresh cracked pepper
- salt to taste
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- more red pepper flakes to taste
- vegan parmesan cheese
- First, press the tofu. Wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and place a heavy pan or book on top for at least 15 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.
- Crumble the tofu into grape-sized chunks into a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Add all seasonings for the Italian crumbles to the tofu and stir gently so you don't break it up too much.
- Heat up a skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the tofu and the minced garlic and let it cook while you cook the pasta. Stir occasionally but keep an eye on it. You want the tofu to be golden and slightly crisp.
- Pour the pasta into the pot of water and cook it according to package instructions. With 5 minutes remaining, add the broccoli rabe to the pot with the pasta and let them continue cooking together.
- Drain the pasta and broccoli rabe and toss in the tofu crumbles and the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Season with salt, fresh cracked pepper, and the optional drizzle of fresh squeezed lemon juice to brighten the dish. Toss everything together to combine.