Confession: I’m a pesto fanatic, but I had never actually made my own until recently. I was intrigued by Barbara Kingsolver’s method of making pesto in bulk in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which Lesley kindly shipped to me from Bordeaux!). However, my baby basil plant isn’t nearly big enough to produce mass quantities of pesto, so I was stumped.
Then I ran across arugula pesto. By now you all know I love arugula (see arugula pasta salad), and I thought it would be the perfect springtime green to incorporate in my pesto. I searched around until I found this recipe for arugula walnut pesto. The author, Elise of Simply Recipes, felt like walnuts complemented the arugula better than pine nuts, which was fine with me because walnuts are much less expensive!
I spent about thirty minutes on a lovely weekend night making this pesto, and froze the extra for later in an ice cube tray. Now any time I want pesto for pasta, pizza or toast, I just have to defrost some green cubes.
Arugula Walnut Pesto
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 5 mins
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Food processor
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
This recipe yields enough pesto to toss with pasta for 6 to 8 people. Feel free to double the recipe if you really want to make it in bulk. I live alone so this is plenty of pesto for me!
- 4 cups packed fresh arugula (thick stems removed if not using baby arugula)
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ to 1 full lemon, squeezed
- Over medium high heat, lightly brown the unpeeled garlic cloves, about ten minutes. Peel off the skins once they have cooled down.
- Over medium high heat, toast the walnuts until fragrant, about three to five minutes.
- In a food processor, combine the arugula, salt, walnuts and all the garlic.
- Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil.
- Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper and a big squeeze of lemon, to taste.
Adapted from Simply Recipes.
Change it up: Substitute basil for the arugula, or pecans or almonds for the walnuts.
▸ Nutrition Information
Note on freezing pesto: Some instructions on freezing pesto suggest that you leave out the parmesan altogether, and add fresh parmesan to your pasta when you’re ready to eat it. I haven’t had any problems with my frozen pesto, which includes the parmesan, but I thought I’d throw the suggestion out there.
I LOVE PESTO!!! I always choose pesto pasta when I’m out at Italian restaurants. Your homemade pesto looks a thousand times better. Good job! :)
Looks pungent and delicious! I use walnuts in my pesto too since they’re so much cheaper than pine nuts here – actually they’re free since we have access to some walnut trees in the Dordogne.
I’m glad the book has provided you with inspiration. (But to be honest, although I like Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction, I thought she came over a little preachy in this book.)
I haven’t read Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction, but I’ve heard good reviews of The Poisonwood Bible. I enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but there were certainly moments when I felt like she was being too condescending. My favorite food writer is still Michael Pollan—he manages to present a more well-rounded view, I think.
I agree about Pollan, he’s changing my life with every chapter. I keep planting things after listening to his book. I want to get a goat or some chickens so bad (but Marshall isn’t so into that idea).
Haha! I tried to read the same book and stopped because she was too condescending. I’ll have to try your recommendation instead.
Can you please make this for me when Ruby is born since I will have no time to cook? I’m trying to make yummy meals and freeze them before she’s born!
Yeah! Pesto will be just one of my baby gifts. :)
Lovely recipe! I will certainly be trying it. And good idea on putting it in ice cube trays! I could never eat all that pesto up before it went bad!!
yay a great idea to put my arugula plant to good use! ive only ever tried the classic version using basil! oh and the freezing idea is genius…because on a working day, i can be too lazy to take out my food processor and then washing it afterwards lol.
Mmmm… I love the spicy, slightly bitter taste of arugula pesto. It’s wonderful. Pesto is also great with kale or chard as well, if you’re interested in trying something really different!
Right after I posted this comment, I spotted this recipe for broccoli pesto! I tried a version of broccoli pesto on quinoa from Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks and it was amazing. This one looks great as well!
birdie to be
This looks absolutely fantastic! I love pesto!
making this pronto. ps new fav blog beyond all belief. already got 3 other friends hooked too =)
You just made my morning. Thank you for visiting! :-)
thank you for schooling me in pasta + pesto! you simply rock :)
ah, that looks so good. i love arugula too! can’t wait to try this asap!
Mmm mm Mmm! This looks so good! I’ve been too busy to read my favorite blogs lately, glad to finally have some reprieve. I would love trying this pesto with some spiralized zucchini noodles as a cold dish.
Oo, that would be good. I’m going to make a whole wheat pizza with this pesto and tomatoes from the farmer’s market soon. Craving it already!
P.s – Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite author. Seriously though.
I’m a pesto fanatic too though I’ve never ventured to make it with arugula. Great idea to freeze it in cubes too! These pictures are some of your best yet, especially the one of the garlic, wow!
Thanks, Heather! I was feeling inspired that day. :)
Tried this one last night, v. tasty (with pasta, on crackers and straight off the spoon!) and have tried putting the leftovers in ice cube trays as suggested.
I had to google what Arugula was though – but it turns out it is what we call ‘rocket’ in Australia which I use reguarly in salads.
(I am also very impressed with your Headings with the photos on your Recipe page, I think I will have to improve my own after seeing yours!)
Hillary [Nutrition N
b-e-a-u-tiful blog! you’ve got quite the eye for photography, girl. love the recipes, too :)
kate! so yummy! I made a kale pesto for the book and I am obsessed, this looks great too.
Kale pesto sounds incredible! I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of your book. Best of luck completing your manuscript!
Love the photos on your site! I definitely want to try this arugula / walnut pesto. Thanks so much for the tip on freezing the pesto! I always wonder what I’m going to do with the leftovers when I make too much. Now I know! Do you also do this with basil pesto?
Hope you get a chance to try this arugula pesto soon, Alice. I do freeze basil pesto as well, and I have a whole post about that: https://cookieandkate.com/2011/easy-pesto-recipes/.
I also love arugula (not to mention all forms of pesto). Try making the pesto with dandelion greens and pumpkin seeds/pepitos…I have and it was wonderfully delish.
That pesto sounds wonderful! I posted a cilantro and pepita pesto not too long ago. Pepitas are so great.
This looks wonderful! I’m a kale fanatic so I think I’ll substitute kale (also, the one farmers market in my tiny rural area doesn’t currently have arugula). What could you serve this with besides pasta, crackers or toast since I avoid any processed foods? I do plan on trying the roasted cauliflower with the red pepper pesto. Any other suggestions?
PS My apologies for the two star rating. My tablet was being stubborn and wouldn’t let me give it more.
Hey Cindi, kale will be great. Pesto is also delicious on baked potatoes and roasted vegetables in general. I bet it would be tasty with roasted carrots, maybe with wild rice, too? I also enjoy pesto on eggs—fried eggs, scrambled eggs, frittatas, etc. It makes for a pretty rich meal.
you can try fresh pasta
freezing pesto so I can eat it all day every day – you smartie!
This pesto is fantastic! Thank you for the recipe.
I love so many of your recipes, but I am vegan and not that many recipes you post are vegan. I love pesto and I love arugula, is there any way of making the arugula walnut pesto without the parmesean cheese?
Yes! Just skip it, or add some nutritional yeast to taste if you’d like to make up for some of that cheesy flavor. Pesto is highly adaptable! You might like my kale pesto recipe, which I made with hemp seeds. They get nice and creamy when they’re blended up.
This is so,easy and flavorful. It makes me want to forget about basil pesto. Love it!
Awesome! Thank you, Todd!
That pesto looks lovely. I would love to give it to a friend as a christmas gift. How long would it last in a glas container??
Looking forward for an answer.
Hi Veronica, I’m sorry I didn’t answer you sooner. The pesto would need to be stored in the refrigerator. I think it would last for a week, maybe longer?
I was looking at a low sodium arugula pesto mashed potato recipe for X-Mas but I wasn’t sure about the pesto recipe they offered. When I came across this recipe and saw the 12 cloves of garlic a roasting in an open pan, I started salivating.
The only thing I did differently was, 3 TB of lime juice, and a Parm/Romano mix (cause that’s what I had). And it was good BUT the next day, WOW! all the flavors had developed and the garlic came shining through. Even my sons (the picky eaters) liked the mashed potatoes I made with it. I just had some with pasta, four days after I made it and I think it’s even better.
This recipe is awesome!
Another delicious, fresh and healthy meal, thank you ☺️
You’re welcome, Alicia! Thanks for your review.
I made this for mother’s day lunch with oven roasted tomatoes and blanched broccoli tossed with the pasta. It was absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to use the leftovers on pizza, grain bowls, eggs…Thank you!
You’re welcome, Jill!
I loved this recipe! First of all, it was delicious – garlicky, flavorful, indulgent, as any good pesto should be. I was pleasantly surprised by the combo of arugula and walnuts, as well as how the lemon (I used a whole one) balanced out the garlic; it’s fantastic! But what made me absolutely love it was how much cheaper and easier it is to make than regular basil/pine nut pesto, a bag of arugula for $2.00 and a big bag of raw walnuts for $4.00, and you have a vat of pesto to use for many meals! This will certainly be a go-to. Thanks Kate.
You’re welcome, Megan! Thanks so much for sharing.
How much pasta would you need for the amount of pesto in this recipe?
I think 8-12 oz of pasta should work for this. It all depends on how saucy you like your pasta.
Thanx, that helps
This looks delicious and I’m so excited to try it! I was wondering what if I don’t have shelled walnuts and just regular deshelled walnuts? Is there a difference in how to prepare it? Thanks!!
Hey Kiki, thank you! I’m sorry, I’m afraid my “shelled walnuts” term was causing confusion. I changed the instructions to say “walnut halves.” Does that make more sense? Reference the photos to see what I’m talking about. Hope that helps!
Thank you for the clarification, Kate!! Can’t wait to make this tomorrow wooo!!!
Love the cherry tomatoes on them (And thank goodness we have some already). Anything else you would recommend to go with the pasta? Trying to see what I can utilize already at home with this minimal grocery shopping going on. Thank you!!
You’re welcome! Hmm, any roasted vegetable would be pretty nice—roasted carrots especially!
Ohhhh roasted carrots that sounds yummy! I’m intrigued how it’ll be with the pesto pasta. Which by the way I made the pesto today and it was super yummy! My husband really liked it too. We are definitely saving this recipe to make again :) Thanks Kate!!
Is this true 12 plus 2 more CLOVES GARLIC! Would like to make this, but 14 garlic cloves is really scary.
I was confused too about the 12+2 cloves of garlic. I only used 3 cloves (all browned in a pan) and really liked the pesto that way. I really cannot imagine it with 14 cloves…
I make many of your recipes, the first place to go for ideas. Have loved all the pesto ways, but 14 cloves of garlic are making me very nervous so I hesitate. Please let me know if this is a editing error or truly is 14 cloves of garlic for real.
Hi Vel! I know it looks intimidating, but it’s correct. Roasting the garlic mellows it out. I hope that helps!
Tried a couple of times ! Turned out great each time
Thanks for a simple yet tasty recipe.
Another great recipe! Made this just as the recipe says and it
is just delicous. Thanks so much!
You’re welcome, Jane! I’m happy you enjoyed it.