Pasta With Arugula Pesto

Pasta With Arugula Pesto
This simple, versatile pesto requires only a handful of ingredients—so make sure they're good quality. (Giulia Scarpaleggia)

To make this pesto, all you need is a bunch of arugula, some excellent extra virgin olive oil (even better if delicately peppery, to match arugula’s bite), walnuts, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. As you can see, this is a very short list of ingredients, but make sure to choose good quality ones.

Read the recipe through before you make it. While you can blend the olive oil, walnuts, and arugula together in a food processor, make sure not to add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano until afterward, when you’ve already scraped your pesto into a bowl. This is to avoid overheating the cheese, which would change the pesto’s texture and flavor.

Before adding the salt, taste: First, you’ll get the pure fresh, bitter, peppery taste of arugula, then the saltiness given by the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. You’ll be able to add just the right amount of salt to match your taste.

Use this arugula pesto to toss with pasta, dress boiled vegetables, or spread on toast, topped with a hard-boiled egg and an anchovy for a mouthwatering appetizer or a simple, frugal meal.

Make an easy meal out of toast topped with arugula pesto, egg, and an anchovy. (Giulia Scarpaleggia)
Make an easy meal out of toast topped with arugula pesto, egg, and an anchovy. (Giulia Scarpaleggia)
Serves 4 to 6
  • 3 1/2 ounces arugula
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 7 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 12 ounces whole wheat pasta
Rinse the arugula under running water and dry it thoroughly, either with a kitchen towel or in a salad spinner.

In a food processor, start by adding walnuts and olive oil, and blend until the walnuts are roughly chopped. Then add the arugula and blend into a creamy pesto.

Scrape the arugula pesto into a bowl. Stir in the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Taste, then add salt as needed. Cover with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days, or use it immediately to dress your pasta.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.

Dress the pasta with the arugula pesto; if it’s too thick, dilute it with the reserved pasta water as needed. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” She is currently working on her sixth cookbook. Find her online at her blog,