Boston Ballet Principal John Lam Shares His Spin on Broccoli Rappi

April 12, 2022
John Lam and his two sons, Santino and Giovanni. Courtesy Lam.

When Boston Ballet principal John Lam was first introduced to broccoli rappi (also known as broccoli rabe or rapini) by his Italian husband, he wasn’t a fan of the bitter taste, nor the traditional preparations, which he found either too soggy or too al dente for his liking. So he decided to try his own spin, splitting the difference in cooking time and adding in onions for more flavor. “It’s an Italian staple, but I prepare it the way my mother cooks her Vietnamese cuisine,” says Lam.

Now the dish is a family go-to—even his two kids, ages 6 and 8, love it. They eat it about every other day, adding it to pasta or rice, or having it cold with toast or crackers. “It’s a healthy green many people don’t think of,” says Lam. “And it’s easy to cook, especially during theater days when you’re getting home quite late.”


• 1 bunch broccoli rappi 
• 2 tbsps olive oil
• 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, minced 
• 1/2 cup white wine (or water)
• 1 tbsp olive oil 
• salt and pepper, to taste
• red pepper flakes (optional)


1 Wash, dry and cut rappi into lengths of 1/2 an inch, including leaves and stems.
2 Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan to medium-high. Add onions and sauté for 3 minutes, until translucent.
3 Add rappi and sauté until the leaves are wilted, 1 minute. (If it’s cooking too fast, add a little water or lower the heat.)
4 Add garlic and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes, then add wine and let simmer for 2 minutes. The rappi should look wilted but have a slight crunch to the stems.
5 Once the liquid has evaporated, remove from the heat and add 1 table­spoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper; cover for 3 minutes. When ready to serve, add red pepper flakes if you want a little kick.