To serve the vegetable as a side dish, bring 3 quarts of salted water to the boil. Drop in the rapa, stir well, and cover the pot. When the water returns to the boil, uncover the pot and continue cooking, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Drain well, and run cold water over the vegetable to cool it down. You can blanch the cime di rapa hours in advance and refrigerate.
When you want to serve the rapa, heat a little olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, plus a few anchovy fillets or diced pancetta, in a skillet until the anchovy has dissolved and the garlic is a light golden brown. Add the blanched vegetable, and cook a few minutes, stirring well, until it’s heated through and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt, and serve with any meat, fish, sausage, an egg dish, or fried tofu.
Despite the error in nomenclature, you’ll find cime di rapa labeled as broccoli rabe in most, if not all, farmers markets and supermarkets. The Chinese vegetable, gai lan, looks very much like cime di rapa, and its taste is similar, too, but a bit sweeter and less bitter. You prepare it for cooking the same way as cime di rapa.
The recipe here is a classic and pairs cime di rapa with orechiette pasta (little ears). It makes a splendid main dish and cooks in about 15 minutes. Buon appetito!