This is a satisfying vegetarian pasta dinner that even feels a little gourmet, largely because arugula pesto and baby turnips aren’t exactly common in pastas.
I call this “chewy” pasta because I emphasize that cooking your pasta to al dente—which is slightly undercooked, or chewy in the center—is the secret to great texture and an elevated dining experience.
Chewy pasta is important, especially for vegetarian pastas, because the noodles simulate a meat-like texture. I recommend using a large noodle shape to maximize this benefit. Since you will coat the noodles with pesto, you can be assured every bite of pasta will be tasty.
Arugula Is Having A Moment
Have you noticed that every time you eat out these days arugula is on the menu? I certainly have. It seems the bright peppery flavor is in high demand.
My guess is that it offers good contrast to some of the other strong flavors that are on the average lunch or dinner plate. It also sounds more gourmet than lettuce, doesn’t it?
Personally, I find that raw arugula is a little strong for me, so I devised an arugula pesto recipe to mellow it out.
My arugula pesto uses the blanching technique to wilt the arugula in boiling water and then shock it in ice cold water.
When you blend up the cooked arugula into a pesto, the dark green color stays beautifully, and arugula’s strong flavor is toned down. It still tastes like arugula, but it tastes less peppery. For me this is perfect, and I hope you also think so.
Arugula pesto is an ingredient in this chewy pasta with baby turnips recipe. But if you love another pesto, or you already have one on hand, you can use it instead. However, use your own judgement about quantity.
RECOMMENDED RECIPE: Blanched Arugula Pesto —GET RECIPE
My arugula pesto is high in greens, mildly flavored, and low in olive oil, so I recommend using about a cup. This could be too much if you are using another pesto.
Turnips And Their Greens
When I was making this recipe a couple days back, I found myself marveling about turnips and their greens, and how happy I was to have them in my hands.
I had just returned to my kitchen after being away for 10 days. Being the middle of July, my garden is in full growth mode. The arugula I had harvested before leaving was all over the place, and the turnips had grown up to almost 2-inch bulbs with beautiful greens. Naturally I thought of making my favorite chewy pasta dish.
As I prepared my vegetables I thought about what I had eaten over the 10 days I had been away and mainly eating out. I realized that my diet was not as diverse as I am used to.
Those commonly used vegetables in the United States are very few. They include tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce, and cauliflower. Most restaurants stick to these, and although we did encounter arugula, it was a very small quantity.
Yet vegetarians rely on vegetables. I am not sure if you are vegetarian, but when you go to most restaurants, about 90 percent of the menu isn’t available to you. And the remainder isn’t generally designed to be a complete meal for a vegetarian.
So I felt pretty grateful to be back cooking from the garden, and preparing baby turnips and turnip greens, as their mild pungency and bitterness is a welcome bit of diversity.
Turnips greens are usually discarded before sale as they are delicate and don’t transport well, but you can sometimes get them at farmer’s markets or specialty grocers. For this recipe, you can substitute the turnip greens for kale, radish greens, green onion, or no greens.
For another turnip recipe, try Braised Baby Turnips and Greens with Turmeric, Garlic, and Lime Juice
A Note On My Chewy Pasta Garnishes
I suggest a bunch of garnishes for this chewy pasta. They add bright flavor, texture, and visual interest to the dish.
The ingredients I recommend are all on hand from the pesto, so just keep some extra aside. You can offer the garnishes separately at the table in little bowls, or garnish each individual serving if you want to do it restaurant-style.
Finishing salt, or flake salt, is an awesome ingredient to have in your pantry. The salt is light in texture and flaked, so a little goes a long way. The flakes melt in your mouth differently from table salt, and the overall salt flavor is milder.
If you haven’t tried flake salt, go ahead and purchase some from my recommendations below. It could change your life, and you may just find this salt starting to go on everything from eggs to salads. These salts are high in essential minerals, trace minerals, and all kinds of good and rare stuff.
In addition to the arugula pesto and turnips you are about to enjoy in this chewy pasta, flake salt will add another bit of diversity to your diet.
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Recipe for ‘Chewy’ Pasta With Succulent Arugula Pesto And Baby Turnips With Their Greens
- 1/2 pound package of pasta, cooked to al dente
- 1 cup succulent arugula pesto, get the recipe here
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 small to medium “baby” turnips
- 6 cups turnip greens, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
for the garnishes
- finishing salt, flake salt, to taste
- fresh lemon juice, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- small handful of walnuts
- You will need a large pot for cooking the pasta, a braising pot with a fitted lid, a medium mixing bowl, a slotted spoon, a colander, and a food processor (for the pesto).
Cook the pasta noodles and make the arugula pesto
- Prepare your turnips by cutting off the greens (if you have them) and peeling the turnips. (Note: If you are using baby turnips you can keep the skins on, as they are less tough at this stage and the skins are full of nutrition.) Slice the turnips into quarter-inch thick bite-sized pieces and set aside until needed.
- If you have the turnip greens, chop into 1-inch pieces and wash in a bowl of cold water. Set aside until needed. (You can keep the greens in the water and scoop them out when you are ready to cook them.) Alternately, substitute the turnip greens for kale, radish greens, or green onions. Prepare these the same way.
- Fill your pasta pot about 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water and stir well.
- If you are making the arugula pesto, make it now, and use the boiling water to blanch the arugula before cooking the pasta in the same water. If you already have pesto, go ahead and cook your pasta noodles to al dente. Your pasta should be just slightly firm in the center to get your chewy texture. Drain the noodles in a colander, and set the noodles aside.
Cook the turnips sauté and finish the pasta
- Place a braising pot (one that has a fitted lid), on medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic. After the garlic starts to brown, add the turnips, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of water.
- Cover the pot and allow the turnips to cook for 3–5 minutes. Once the turnips are almost just cooked, add the turnip greens (or other greens) and another pinch of salt. Cook uncovered for 1–2 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are done. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until needed.
- Use the same pot, and place it back on medium-high heat. Spoon in about a cup of pesto and allow the pesto to warm, stirring frequently, but don’t overcook it so as to preserve the flavor and nutrition of your good quality olive oil. Turn off the heat and dump in your cooked pasta. Use two spoons to combine and coat all the pasta with pesto. Add more pesto if you want.
- Plate the pesto noodles in a large serving bowl or individual serving bowls. Top with prepared turnip sauté, a pinch of finishing salt, a squeeze of fresh lemon, fresh black pepper, parmesan cheese, and walnuts. Alternately, keep the garnishes separate in tiny bowls and allow individuals to choose how much they want of each. Enjoy!