Sparaceddi called also sparacelli is a vegetable similar to the broccoli raab or
or rabe, or broccoletti or rapine. This
plant, native to the Mediterranean
Basin and China, is
related to the turnip, cabbage and mustard. The scientific name of turnip is Brassica Rapa, hence the name rape in Italian or rabe
Thebroccoli rape contains glucosinolate, a substance that gives
that characteristic slightly bitter and spicy taste that combined red hot pepper and with the sweetness of pork
sausages orpancetta (pork belly) in the sauce of the
orecchiette pasta, brings out flavors and savor enjoyed at the
tables of southern Italy.
There are many varieties of this vegetable and depending where they are grown it can be more or less bitter. A
modified variety cultivated in Canada
is used to make from its seeds Canola oil, which stands
for CANadian Oil Low Acidity.
The variety that grows in Sicily
is called sparaceddi or sparacelli: it has a short stem with tender leaves, topped with florets.
The leaves, spouts and the stems, the size of a little finger are edible; sparaceddi are consumed as contorno, side dish, or in the soupy pasta chi sparaceddi.
The sprouts, called giummi in Palermo, are
made of small light green and yellowish flowers. Sparaceddi from
Latin sparagus or sparagi changed into Medieval Latin to sparaci and it derives from the Greek aspharagos meaning shoot.
Sicilian sparaceddi have a delicate and mild taste and most of
the time it is coupled with a sauce called assassunata, to dress
the pasta or a contorno (side dish) of sparaceddi.
Assassunata derives from the French word assaissoner, to season; this word was adopted in the 13th century, when Beatrix,
the daughter of Raymond-Berenger IV, Count of Provence, married Charles I d’Anjou, king of
Sicily and lived in Palermo.
She made an effort to Frenchify Sicilian cooking and the quick, fast and plain sauce made of olive oil and
garlic got the name assassunatu or assassunata.
A vegetable comparable to sparaceddi is available throughout the U.S.A.
and it is called
broccolini or baby broccoli. It is available in selected markets year round, but not all the
times. The thin stalks and small florets are edible; broccolini are brought to the markets without leaves.
When we arrived in New York from Palermo, there were not
sparaceddi or broccolini in the markets!
The broccoli di rape similarly looking to sparaceddi had a distinguished bitter taste. The broccoli, the large flower head and edible stalk with a taste similar to the
sparacelli, it had no leaves.
We tested a combination of broccoli di rape and
broccoli in search for the taste of the sparacelli!
The result is not perfect but it can be acceptable.
Shop in a reliable vegetable store and buy fresh and young broccoli di rape, use the leaves and sprouts, discard
the bitter stems and combine with the broccoli.
Good results are obtained preparing as per the following easy
bunch broccoli rape (1 ½ to 2 lb.)
bunch of broccoli (1 ½ to 2 lb.)
tablespoons of olive oil
cloves of garlic crushed
Salt and pepper
the broccoli rape, cut all florets and strip the leaves from the stem. Discard the stems and any withered
Cut the tender leaves into 1 inch strips.
Wash a few times and place in a colander to drain.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and briefly blanch the broccoli rape to tone down their bitterness. Drain with
a slotted spoon and set on the side.
To clean the broccoli simply rinse with cold water. Do not soak. Cut the floret from the stalk and chop into small
chunks. Set on the side.
To prepare the stalk, cut off and discard 1 inch from the end. Trim, peel and cut the tender part into thin slices.
Set on the side in a container with water.
Bring a large pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Drain the sliced stalks of the broccoli and plunge
into boiling water and cook for 5 minutes; add the chopped broccoli into boiling water with stalks and cook for
additional 5 minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and set on the side.
Over a high flame heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch skillet and sauté the garlic until golden. Remove
skillet from heat, carefully add the boiled vegetables, and return to fire over a low heat. Toss and turn the
vegetables to blend into the sweetness of the garlic and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the “sparacelli” until they are tender 5 to 7 minutes. Place into a serving dish and garnish with quartered