RECIPE: Arugula-Basil Pesto with Pecans

Earlier today I posted about how to sow and harvest Arugula. (The post is here if you need it quickly.). If you have tough, bitter, more mature greens, a pesto is a great way to use them up. It  accommodates their bitterness and you can still get a full Arugula experience.

The recipe I used as a base came from Epicurious. However, I decided to be conservative with the Arugula. One, because I was not going to have enough from my garden, and two, I do have an 8 year old who-though is brave and daring in our foodie adventures-may still be anti-super bitter pesto. So I combined the greens with Sweet and Genovese basil from my garden and a bit of parsley. I used Parmesan because it was milder, but I think if I were to make it again I would do a Pecorino Romano, a Reggiano blend or just something a touch punchier to hold up to the Arugula. It's pretty easy, the food processor does all the work, really. And I believe if you have extra, you can top it off with olive oil in a storage container and it would keep for a few days (like normal pesto).

Arugula-Basil Pesto with Pecans


3 oz. fresh cut Arugula leaves, tough stems removed
4 oz. fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
3/4 cup pecans
1 large garlic clove
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 grated Parmesan or other Italian hard cheese (plus more for garnish)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguine


Toast pecans until golden in a small saute pan over medium heat. Let cool. Take 1/4 cup and chop them roughly with a knife and set aside. These will be for the garnish on top.

Rinse and trim all you greens and herbs. Place in a food processor.

Peel, trim and chop up you garlic clove finely. Add the salt right onto the garlic. Using the side of your knife and your palm, press and mush the garlic into the salt until a rough paste is formed. Add it to the food processor. With that add the pepper, the cooled whole pecans and grated cheese. Pulse the mixture a couple of times to get things going and distribute things evenly.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package directions. While it is in the middle of cooking, ladle 1 1/2 cups hot pasta water carefully into a cup. Reserve it for assembly. When pasta is done, drain and return it to the big pan for assembly.
While the food processor is going, add the olive oil. Process until a rich, creamy green paste is formed. I usually pause midway and scrape the sides and mix, then continue processing to make sure things are well incorporated.

Add your paste to the pasta. Now, depending on the palate of your diners, you may not want to dump all of it in. Pour about 1/2 -3/4 in, and 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water and toss. Take a taste. If it is too weak, add more pesto. If it is too hard and thick to toss, add 1/4 cup more pasta water to mix the pesto. Keep adding water and pesto in stages until it is the right amount of sauce and the consistency you want. You won't need all the water for sure. You may use all the pesto depending on how punchy you like things (we did). Use your judgement. When serving, top with the reserved chopped pecans and extra grated cheese.



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