Here in California, walnuts are local and arugula is fantastic in late winter and early spring. Last week I went to a Farmer’s Market class at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica where we made pesto totally without basil, which was new to me. We had a bunch of arugula in our garden that needed harvesting and I thought: make pesto! This is an adaptation of the recipe we used in class.  Ingredients and amounts are fluid: feel free to adjust to desired taste and texture, and to substitute nuts or greens or hard cheeses.  You can combine spinach with the arugula for a milder taste, use pecans or the traditional pine nuts, pecorino or romano for the cheese.  You can blend until its really smooth, or keep the leaves and nuts coarse for a more rustic pesto.  This will keep in the fridge for several days in an airtight container and freezes well, too.

1 ½ cups walnut pieces, toasted and cooled

4 – 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 cups packed arugula leaves

1 cup grated parmesan

¾ cups olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pulse the nuts and garlic together in a food processor, just until nuts are in very small pieces.  Don’t turn it to butter.  Add arugula and cheese and pulse about ten times.  Scrape down edges if necessary.  Add oil in a slow stream while processor is running, until you reach the desired texture.  Taste; add salt if necessary and stir in lemon juice to preserve color.

Serving suggestion: 

Prepare 8 oz. pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is almost done, stir a few handfuls of thinly sliced kale leaves into the cooking pasta.  After another minute of cooking, drain pasta and kale.  Squeeze a bit more lemon juice on top, and toss with about ½ cup of pesto in a large serving bowl.  You can also add fresh mozzarella, dabs of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, etc.  Top with additional toasted nuts and/or grated parmesan and enjoy!  Serves 2 – 4.


I’m an enthusiastic participant in Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Head on over to her blog to link your posts on any foodish topic: cookbook reviews, recipes, food for thought…from Beth Fish Reads


7 responses to this post.

  1. I love pesto but haven’t really ventured passed basil pesto and sundried tomato pesto. Will have to try this the next time we get arugula in our box.


  2. I had thought that arugula on its own would be too bitter. But the sharpness of the arugula and the cheese and walnut richness balance really well. I didn’t use baby arugula, either, this was stuff that had been in the garden for a while!


    • I love arugula–baby or mature. I’m so jealous you have things growing in your garden! It’ll be quite a few more weeks before we can harvest anything here in zone 6 New Jersey.


      • Winter is actually our best growing season – great for salad greens, kale, chard, beets, carrots. We don’t do so well in the summer, though, so it evens out. I am grateful to be able to go outside and pick a salad every day this time of year.

  3. Sounds so very healthy! My recipes this week are from Anne of Green Gables


  4. This looks good. I will have to give it a try. That Farmers Market class you reference at the beginning of your post sounds like fun!!


  5. […] Pesto With Arugula & Walnuts ( […]


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