Arugula Pesto

Arugula pesto made with fresh arugula leaves, garlic, olive oil, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese.

  • Yield: Makes 1 heaping cup.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method

1 Brown 6 garlic cloves with their peels on in a skillet over medium high heat until the garlic is lightly browned in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan, cool, and remove the skins.

2 Toast the nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown, or heat in a microwave on high heat for a minute or two until you get that roasted flavor. In our microwave it takes 2 minutes.

3a Food processor method (the fast way): Combine the arugula, salt, walnuts, roasted and raw garlic into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the processor. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

3b Mortar and pestle method: Combine the nuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. With the pestle, grind until smooth. Add the cheese and olive oil, grind again until smooth. Finely chop the arugula and add it to the mortar. Grind up with the other ingredients until smooth.

Because the pesto is so dependent on the individual ingredients, and the strength of the ingredients depends on the season or variety, test it and add more of the ingredients to taste.

Serve with pasta, over freshly roasted potatoes, or as a sauce for pizza.

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Comments

  1. Amy

    I discovered arugula pesto on a Rachael Ray TV show and I agree with you it really is wonderful with walnuts. I also discovered that adding a little water really helps the texture. I’m a little more liberal with the olive oil than you are, but I admire your restraint!

  2. R G Chesneau

    Wonderful recipe, exact and with the real pesto. Thanks for it.

  3. Pat Kernan

    Wow. . .I forgot how fun and easy pesto is–and what a breeze it is with a food processor. I used a little chopper-type unit (Toasmaster, $12.99 at a local Rite Aid today). Pulsed it in halves and then pulsed it all together at the end. About 40 min. from start to finish. Stem-pulling the cilantro and tarragon was the most time-consuming task during this pesto quest!

    I LIKE garlic. So I used the amount called for plus a smidgen more. All raw. For less acutely insane afficionados: remember that different herbs will temper the garlic more than basil, esp. if you don’t have that perfectly sweet peak-season organic basil you had the last time you made this.

    Today: basil, mild cilantro (almost like a hybrid between salsa-pungent cilantro and italian parsley), and tarragon.

    I added a tiny bit of kosher salt and pepper, as well.

    It is going to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours and be tossed with mini penne. There will be extra pesto to top, and extra cheese : )

    Thanks for this pesto primer, and for motivating me to make some.

    Pat Kernan
    Los Angeles

  4. Pat Kernan

    Forgot to add. . . another twist. Used pine nuts, and toasted them in microwave as directed. It really enhanced the flavor compared to pestos I’ve made and sampled before. No need to get out a pan for this component.

  5. Heather

    We substituted grated pecorino cheese for parmesan and used 1/4 cup of local lemon olive oil and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. It was excellent with pasta and some organic sausages.
    BTW, we found a great place called Underdog (in San Francisco on Irving at (16th?)). They have organic, nitrate free sausages that are very good.

  6. Ami

    Tried it and loved it.. added some spice to it as well.. reduced the oil and cheese content and added some water as recommended .. turns out just fine..
    Does anyone know if you can store this for a while and if so what changes need to be done..
    Thanks

  7. Jessica

    I love love love arugula!! A few years ago I was watching Everyday Italian on the food network where she made a spinach pesto. I never knew how easy it was to make, and at the end of her show she said you could always substitute arugula for spinach and it really sparked my interest. I usually do half spinach and half arugula, I’ve done all spinach but never all arugula and I always use pine nuts.
    I really like the idea of putting some of the garlic in a skillet first.

    Also, one reader commented on storage of pesto. On the show she said you can store the pesto in the freezer, place per serving in a container but omit the cheese until after you thaw it. It works perfectly!

  8. Monica

    Love this! I bought a box of arugula @ the farmers market for ($1!) yesterday and was wondering what I wanted to make with it-then-whalla!! your aurugla pesto recipe. Simply delicious-I followed it perfectly and it is so tasty, cannot wait to use it tonite. Thank you!

  9. garth

    hi: sorry for reopening an old comment thread, but if anyone swings by I could use some advice. I made this recipe, but it came out very inconsistent, with over-intense garlic taste (I know some people will disagree that there is such a thing) and a very grassy flavor. I think my main mistakes were: not roasting the garlic through til they were semi-translucent, and leaving the stems on the arugula. I don’t have a lot of experience with arugula, so I thought I’d check in.
    First comment here, btw. Favorite recipe site, and the URL’s named after my kid!

    You should definitely remove the tougher stems of the arugula, I’ve added that note to the recipe so thank you for pointing it out. Also roasting the garlic will mellow out the garlic. ~Elise

  10. Yana

    Fantastic tricks for getting that “roasted” flavor out of garlic (frying pan) and walnuts (microwave)! I loved the results and the fact that no actual roasting was involved.

  11. Misha

    Thank you — I had 4 cups of arugula leaves sitting in my fridge with nothing to do. I added about a cup of fresh spinach leaves and juice of a large lemon, and of course a bit more olive oil. DELICIOUS. I can’t wait to use this on pasta tonight.

  12. Nico

    This was absolutely delicious. I added a little bit of water and then after blending the walnuts, I also chopped some with a knife and stirred it in, just for texture/crunch. So awesome! I also love arugula!

  13. Yoko

    Very random, but I made this pesto using carrot tops & Brazil nuts (the carrot tops were too tough for a salad and had to use them some way; no pine nuts in the house)

    Anyway, you guessed right that it didn’t work as a pesto..but it was a GREAT marinade for top sirloin! Just smear some on the steak after salt & peppering, and grill. I cut it up and had it carne asada style with your salsa verde, Elise. Yum.

    Carrot tops and brazil nuts, who would have thunk? Thanks for sharing. ~Elise

  14. Krystle

    Hi Elise!
    I wanted to try this recipe, but have a question. Do we have to remove the stems just below where the leaf begins, or do we have to slice each leaf lengthwise and remove the entire stem?

    Hi Krystie, it sort of depends on how tough the stems are. If the arugula is quite mature, then the stems might need slicing out from the middle of the leaf. That may happen if you are growing arugula. But the arugula you buy from the store is usually younger and more tender, so I would just remove the stems below where the leaf begins. ~Elise

  15. Sheryl

    Just made this (only used all roasted garlic). It is amazing! I make pesto often and always use cilantro and either almonds or raw pumpkin seeds (the green ones). However, this will be my new staple. I love the roasted garlic as it provides a nice mellow garlic flavor. Thanks!

  16. Shirin Escobedo

    I made this pesto for my girls night get-together and it was fantastic!! I tossed it over brown rice, gluten-free pasta and it gave it a nice al dente texture. Loving the easy recipe for Pesto and the freshness of the arugula. Added a few leaves of basil as well and a little extra parmesan cheese. The walnuts were already ground up, so just stirred them into the pesto.

    Thanks Elise! You’re the best.

  17. Tay

    Hi Elise,

    How long does the arugula pesto last? Should it be stored in the fridge? What about the freezer? Thanks!

    Great question. Like any pesto, you want to store it in the refrigerator. Cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap. Any oxygen reaching the pesto will darken it. Some people freeze pesto with success. I haven’t attempted to freeze it. ~Elise

  18. carol

    i have seen this recipe all over the web and decided to try it. glad i picked your recipe – super easy and super tasty! thank you! this recipe will be a keeper!

  19. Ashley

    I made this a few days ago and loved it so much I just had to come back to comment. I’ve made pesto a gazillion times with basil, but never thought to try arugula until now. I might like this version better than the traditional!

    The bag of Trader Joe’s arugula offers a pesto recipe, but it doesn’t use nuts or cheese. Sounds crazy to me…

  20. teresa

    i made this last night in my new food processor (took like 2 minutes) and it’s incredible. thank you!