Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arugula Tomato Pesto

There really isn’t a whole lot of story behind this recipe other than it being the first time I’ve successfully made something delicious out of this highly regarded leaf. Each time I have made a classic or creative attempt at cooking with arugula, I’ve always ended up with a puckered face from the pungent and peppery flavor that is signature to arugula. This is perhaps because my arugula comes from a farm that waits to harvest until its vegetables are fully developed…meaning I’m workin’ with some real, busty, adult arugula, not the mild baby kind you get from a nice fluffy bag at Whole Foods. The sturdy, mature lettuce is much more robust, if not abrasive, than it’s younger self. Aren’t we all.

Last year when arugula appeared in my produce bag from the farm, no lingering memories came to surface on my taste buds. I had certainly eaten it before, but my only prominent thought of arugula was, “Ah yes, that high class green that jeopardized Obama’s election.” This is the benefit of getting a weekly bag of surprise produce – you get the chance to not only cook with but become familiar with items knocked my Fox News. Cooking with new items I’ve only heard of is a true thrill and pleasure. Yet…sauce after sauce, salad after salad, and sauté after sauté….blatt! I could not get this crap to taste good! How does it have such an elite reputation? Bitter from the first to last bite and a spicy bitter at that. I like bitter and I like spicy, but they hardly appear together in my cuisine.

As expected, when my first bag of arugula surfaced this season, I fell into a sad little salad slump. So many enticing recipes – pear and arugula salad with walnut and pomegranate seeds, arugula orange salad with rose water dressing, blah blah blah. That’s for the baby stuff. I had to figure out a way to tone this bad boy down…tomatoes worked perfectly. After whipping it up with some garlic, tomatoes, and a generous pinch of NY the magic really happened when I added that drizzle of walnut oil. Instead of adding pine nuts as I would in a traditional pesto (mainly because I didn’t have any), I used a nut oil to replace olive oil. Holy walnut yum yum, this was fabulous. If you haven’t invested in a good bottle of walnut oil, you should seriously consider splurging the $10. That way when you have to explain to carnivores how you get your Omega-3s if you don’t eat fish, you have a suitable answer.

Arugula Tomato Pesto
Makes about 1 ½ cups
Prep time: 10 minutes


3 c. Arugula
1 c. Yellow and/or red tomatoes, chopped
2 T. Nutritional yeast
½ T. Garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Walnut oil
½ tsp. Salt


Puree all ingredients in a food processor and adjust salt to taste. Serve over pasta or toasted baguette.


  1. I'm totally robust now that I'm older. =) I'm also a sucker for pesto. It tickles me to no end that cheese is absolutely not needed in these delicious sauces, and people don't even notice it. -Christy

  2. I totally agree! A friend wanted to cook dinner for me once and had a prepared jar of pesto...I obviously couldn't eat it because of the parm, but it turns out she had a basil plant! So easy to make your own and the cheese wasn't missed whatsoever.