Broccoli is one of those vegetables you may have not wanted to eat when you were younger. Simply boiled, it can be mushy without much flavor. But artfully prepared, it becomes a versatile ingredient that can be the star of any dish. Even President Obama declared his love for the vegetable earlier this year at a recent school appearance. 

We know, broccoli isn't exactly in season, but it's still available at the store, and still tastes great. LA Times Food editor and California Cook Russ Parsons's recommends "baby" broccoli, broccoli rabe or whatever is crisp and stiff. The flower buds should be closed tightly and be a dark green color. 

Here are 5 recipes that will make it easy to get you and your kids to eat your green vegetables. 

Pasta with broccoli and Italian sausage

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: 6

1 head broccoli (about 3/4 pound)

2 links fresh Italian sausage ( 1/4 to 1/2 pound)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound dried short pasta, such as fusilli, penne, or ziti; or long dried pasta such as spaghetti

Salt, pepper

1 ounce pecorino Romano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, clean the broccoli: Separate the florets from the stems and set them aside. Remove the tough peel of the stems with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, then cut the stems into half-inch cubes. Remove the casings from the sausage.

2. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and crumble the sausage meat into the oil, flattening each piece slightly so it will brown better. Cook until the sausage browns and crisps. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic turns pale brown, about 5 minutes. Do not let the garlic scorch; if it begins to brown, remove the pan from the heat.

3. Add the pasta and the diced broccoli stems to the boiling water and cook 6 to 7 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and cook until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes total. Scoop out the pasta and broccoli and drain; keep the water at a boil.

4. Place the skillet over high heat and add the drained broccoli and pasta to the sausage and garlic. Add one-half cup boiling water from the pasta pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the water mostly boils away, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and a good grinding of black pepper.

5. Divide the pasta evenly among 6 warmed pasta plates and shave pecorino Romano over the top with a vegetable peeler.

Each serving: 406 calories; 15 grams protein; 62 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 12 mg. cholesterol; 263 mg. sodium.

Broccoli rabe with burrata

30 minutes. Serves 4 to 6

1 pound broccoli rabe or baby broccoli, bottoms trimmed

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if necessary

2 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 (4-ounce) balls burrata cheese

1. In a big pot of liberally salted rapidly boiling water, blanch the broccoli rabe. Cook just until it's tender but still crisp, 2 to 5 minutes, then remove from the boiling water and transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry in a kitchen towel.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, gently, until the garlic toasts and crisps, about 10 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn. It's better to have it undercooked than over.

3. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the broccoli rabe. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice and toss in the flavored oil until lightly coated.

4. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a platter. (The dish can be made to this point several hours in advance and left at room temperature.)

5. Divide each burrata ball into 4 to 6 pieces, being careful to preserve the filling. Scatter the burrata over the top of the broccoli rabe. If there is no more olive oil in the skillet, add another tablespoon and swirl it around. Spoon the olive oil over the top of the burrata pieces and serve.