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If there is one thing that gets my knickers in a twist, it’s those things that still have me stymied after 50 years in Italy. So let’s like to try to solve the broccoli/broccoletti dilemma once and for all, shall we?
First up are broccoletti aka cime di rapa, rapini and broccoli di rape (broccoli raab or rabe in english). This vegetable is actually the top tender leaves and buds of a wild yellow flower that is picked before it blossoms. I am told they are a member of the Chicory Family. In Naples they are called friarielli – not to be confused with friggiarelli, which are those scrumptious little green peppers that are stir-fried in garlic and oil.
Then an American couple told me that broccoletti in America (aka broccolini) are a different plant altogether; a cross between broccoli and Gai Lan or Asian Broccoli. Oh Lord!
Chaos sets in when it comes to the broccoli enigma because as a little girl in America, I remember broccoli as a vegetable that looked like a tiny green tree.
But when I came to Rome and was sent to the market to buy some, the vendor handed me a fascinating, alien-green cauliflower (cavolfiore) with fractal spires that looked like something that had been revisited by Max Escher. He called it broccolo.
Now broccolo, or cavolo, is actually a cabbage, which is part of the Brassicaceae Family. Other members include: cavolo cappuccio (used to make sauerkraut), cavolo nero, cavolo cinese, broccolo cinese, cavolo portoghese, cavolo rosso, cavoletti di Bruxelles (Bruxelles sprouts) and even CAVOLO BROCCOLO!
MA CHE CAVOLO! (in english, what the…!) or as the Romans say, “SONO CAVOLI VOSTRI” or ‘it’s your problem’.
And so be it!