Arugula greens typically make their presence known by their spicy, peppery flavor. In this Blanched Arugula Pesto recipe, the flavor mellows after 20 seconds or so in a boiling water bath.
In addition to the bright, balanced flavor you get from using this method, you also get succulent texture, and lasting vibrant green color with only minimal oil.
Instead of a lot of oil, whole foods like walnuts and parmesan cheese add natural fat. Along with lemon juice and fresh garlic, this simple recipe packs a lot of health qualities.
Blanched arugula pesto is a great way to use up any arugula before it spoils. I was able to process a huge harvest of arugula from the garden with a double batch of this recipe. Now I have beautiful portions of pesto in the freezer for a quick dinner on a rainy day.
This pesto is wonderful with pasta, toast and eggs, sandwiches, boiled potatoes, or as a base for a pesto pizza.
Arugula Pesto Ingredients
This pesto comes together quickly, especially if you have a food processor. The ingredients I have chosen are budget-friendly and simple. I bet most of my readers will have walnuts, fresh garlic, and lemons stocked in their pantry.
If you are lucky, you also have the Parmigiano Reggiano on hand. This is a hard cheese made with unpasteurized cow’s milk that’s aged for at least 12 months. To bear the name Parmigiano Reggiano, this cheese must originate from a limited area in Northern Italy, and it must be inspected for adherence to cheese-making traditions.
This type of parmesan is particularly laden with savory umami flavor. In my experience, it elevates all manner of pastas, pestos, salads, soups, and egg dishes. It is a little more expensive, but totally worth it. Use it to make this pesto, and you can use up what’s left to experiment.
All you have to do to make this blanched arugula pesto is process the ingredients (everything but the greens) together first.
Next, you add in the blanched arugula and blend for a few more seconds.
Finally, you pulse in the fresh spinach greens and pour in the good quality olive oil. You can use your best olive oil for this as long as you don’t intend to heat the pesto to high temperatures.
Many Ways to Enjoy Arugula Pesto
My number one way to enjoy arugula pesto is with warm pasta cooked to al dente perfection. An al dente pasta is still slightly chewy, and I find this texture very appealing when it’s coated with this succulent pesto.
I like to embellish a pesto pasta with an extra vegetable topping, such as turnips and greens, or golden beets, or cauliflower and onion. Cook up a simple sauté, or braise the vegetables in garlic and a bit of water. If you decide to do this, try to minimize the oil you use, since the pesto is already rich. It is all about creating balance.
My next favorite option is to use the pesto as a spread on toast and top it with a simple poached egg. Perfection.
Or use it as a base for a pesto pizza. I like pita bread pizzas since it is thin crust, and it gets nice and crispy in the oven. Try topping it with parboiled potato and red peppers, or red onion and yams.
You could also use the pesto in a grain salad, or mix it with raw vegetables and roast them in the oven.
I hope you get the picture here that the possibilities are endless, and this pesto is your friend. The mellow flavor is slightly peppery and slightly bitter, but mostly it is sweet and inviting. It isn’t as bold as basil pesto, so I find you can eat more of it. Ready to give it a try?
Recipe for Blanched Arugula Pesto
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, roughly chopped
- juice of one whole lemon
- 1 teaspoon quality salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound arugula, blanched
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
- Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare a medium mixing bowl filled with 2 cups of ice and 6 cups of cold water. This bowl will be used to shock your arugula after blanching.
- Add washed arugula in two batches to the boiling water. Submerge in water for about 20 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. Transfer the hot arugula to the ice water bath and submerge. Use your hands to squeeze out the water from the arugula and set aside until needed.
- In a food processor, add garlic cloves, walnuts, parmesan, lemon, salt, and pepper. Blend for 10–20 seconds. You want it slightly chunky. Add the blanched arugula. Blend for 10 seconds or so. Add the spinach and pulse until the leaves are incorporated. Finally, pour in the olive oil and blend. Taste, and adjust flavor using salt, pepper, and lemon juice if necessary.