Broccoli Rabe Cannellini Bean Meatballs


I was just sitting here getting ready to write this post, when I got a little distracted and started browsing my “Popular Posts” in the sidebar. Did you guys notice this before and not tell me?

“There was a time when a bagel and cream cheese was my absolute favorite breakfast…”

“Falafel is one of my favorite foods of all time. Okay, fine, I know I’ve probably said that about a half dozen dishes on this blog…” (Guessing the total has climbed since I made that statement.)

“Massaman curry is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite meals on this planet…”

I just learned a couple things about myself. (1) I like food even more than I thought (which was a lot), and (2) I’m kinda predictable. For today’s post I ought to shake things up a bit, which is why I’ve decided to talk about one of my absolute favorite vegetables of all time: broccoli rabe. You didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

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During my early twenties I waited tables at an Italian chain restaurant in downtown Philadelphia. It certainly wasn’t a favorite job, but I did learn a few things, among them, to avoid chain restaurants when dining out, and of the existence of broccoli rabe. I think I actually went around for the first month or so without any clue as to what the stuff was, thinking it was just broccoli and the “rabe” was an extra bad typo repeated in multiple locations throughout the menu. When a customer finally informed me of my error I felt rather silly and had to go out and cook some broccoli rabe at home to mitigate my ignorance.

I’m now delighted to say that broccoli rabe has since become one of my absolute favorite veggies of all time. Emphasis on “one of.” I’m sure I’ll introduce others later. I’d hate to disappoint you guys with one measly favorite of anything.

I do tend to get stuck in a bit of a rut with broccoli rabe, as it tastes awesome with just garlic and olive oil, which is exactly how I was planning on preparing my most recent bunch, when I realized, what better way to consume some garlic and olive oil than in the form of some veggie meatballs? The white bean flavor mellows out the bitter character of the broccoli rabe really nicely and adds some meatiness to your veggie meatballs. You could make an entire meal out of just the meatballs here (I did) but my favorite way to enjoy these is on a big old crusty bread sandwich.


Cannelloni Bean and Broccoli Rabe Meatballs
Recipe type: Sides
Serves: 24
  • ½ bunch of broccoli rabe (about ¾ lb.), stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1¾ cups cooked or 1 can of cannelloni beans, drained
  • 1 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • about 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • marinara sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Steam broccoli rabe for about three minutes, until slightly tender.
  3. Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then place in food processor with onion, garlic, beans, panko and seasonings.
  4. Pulse until blended completely and beans are partially mashed, scraping bowl as needed. Shape into 2" balls.
  5. Coat baking dish or large cast iron skillet with about ½ tbsp. olive oil. Place meatballs in dish or skillet and brush with remaining oil.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, rolling them around about every ten minutes to get even browning all around.
  7. Serve with marinara sauce.

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    • says

      Yeah, it’s really nice to have some protein and veggies to round out a pasta dinner. I used to use store bought veggie meatballs, but homemade are so much tastier (and more fun)! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!

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