Arugula Gives Your Pesto A Peppery Kick

There's no doubt that vibrant and herby pesto, traditionally made with garlic, basil, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, is one of the most delicious and versatile condiments around. You can pair pesto with pasta, slather it on pizza, spread it on sandwiches, or even top off your soup. It's a go-to ingredient for adding a burst of flavor and freshness to nearly any dish. But what if you're looking to explore beyond the conventional varieties? Arugula makes the perfect choice. This tender, peppery green adds a whole new dimension of flavor when incorporated into a pesto.

Arugula, also known as rocket, is a member of the cabbage family. It is often described as spicy, nutty, pungent, and mustard-like. If you're a fan of richer flavors, it becomes the perfect choice for a pesto. Its unique taste profile stands out, providing a delightful contrast to more common ingredients. While basil's sweet and grassy notes are appreciated, arugula offers an exciting and distinct alternative.

Peppery pesto tips and pairings

One of the beauties of incorporating arugula into a pesto is that you can adjust the flavor to suit your taste preferences, whether you want a subtle hint of pepperiness or a full-on peppery kick. And the base starts just like an regular pesto recipe. For a bold, distinct flavor, use 2 cups of packed arugula leaves (instead of the basil), 1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper to taste, as well as olive oil (we recommend starting with 2 tablespoons and adding more until you reach your desired texture). Some nutty parmesan cheese is always an option too.  For a balance of sweet and savory notes, you could also use 1 cup of packed arugula leaves and 1 cup of packed basil leaves, with the same other ingredients.

When preparing arugula pesto, consider the type of olive oil you use. Avoid sharp-flavored olive oils, as they can overwhelm the delicate and peppery taste of arugula. Instead, opt for a milder, fruitier olive oil to complement arugula's one-of-a-kind flavor profile.

You can use arugula pesto much like any pesto, though some ingredients pair especially well with this pungent green. Pair it with bright ingredients to balance its stronger notes. Try tossing arugula pesto with pasta, grilled shrimp, and a squeeze of lemon for a refreshing dish. Spread it on a ciabatta sandwich with roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella. Use it as a base for pizza topped with cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese. Whether you're using it in a main dish or as a finishing touch, arugula pesto might just be the zippy ingredient your kitchen has been missing!