Recipe: Arugula Walnut Pesto

Years ago, my friend Emily had us over for dinner and being the amazing chef that she is, wowed me with her pesto that she used arugula and walnuts in, instead of the classic basil and pine nuts. I’m definitely a classic basil pesto fan, but something about the bitterness of the arugula calmed by the smooth walnut flavor remained with me for a long time. At the time I didn’t own a food processor, so the recipe slipped from my mind for a long time, until about a month ago, when challenged with having a vegetarian over for dinner (I was vegan for years, but a TERRIBLE cook back then) the recipe popped back into my head as the perfect star of the meal.

It’s ridiculously easy to make, and you can basically eat it on anything. Just plop that stuff right on any meat, veggies, toast, GO WILD! I have a very small food processor, so you can double this recipe to have leftovers or feed more people if yours is larger. This recipe was enough to top pasta with for four people.

Arugula Walnut Pesto
2 cups arugula, packed
1/2 cup shelled walnuts
1/2 cup gratedĀ parmesan
1/2 olive oil (extra virgin will taste better, but I never have it on hand as I cook with regular)
6 garlic cloves, broken up but not peeled!
salt to taste

Heat a pan with a small bit of olive oil and add the un-peeled garlic. You want to cook them until the garlic inside is soft – the skins will turn a golden brown and start to absorb the oil. It takes roughly 8-10 minutes. Remove the garlic, but not the oil, and let the garlic cool down. Add the walnuts and toast for a few minutes. When the garlic is cool enough, peel the skins off.

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil. Once well combined, slowly add the olive oil until smooth. Add salt to taste.

The first night I made it, I put red and yellow cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil in the broiler for a few minutes and we ate the pesto and tomatoes a top angel hair pasta. It was dreamy.

Photos by Kate Miss, taken on a Pentax Honeywell Spotmatic with Portra 160 film. Holding a spoon and focusing a manual camera takes skills I apparently don’t have all the time.


  1. says

    Is there a walnut season? I was buying huge bags but I haven’t for months because the price jumped. Even more so for pecans. Sunflower seeds seem like the best bargain. I’ve made a sundried tomato pesto with them that turned out well.

  2. Isahrai says

    I’m a huge fan of all things pesto. For my fellow vegans, throw in an avocado instead of parmesan cheese and you will have a rich creamy heart-healthy pesto that no one will know is cheese-less!

  3. Kim says

    Have you by any chance made lasagna with this pesto? I’m thinking I might try it out and thought I’d see if you had any thoughts…

    The pesto looks delicious!

    • says

      Ohh that’s an interesting idea! My only thought is that it might be a bit dry? Because the noodles need the moisture from the sauce to cook? But maybe if they were pre-boiled and then it was just baked to melt everything together it would work?

  4. says

    Holding a spoon and focusing a manual camera takes three hands. A rare “skill” indeed.

    Arugula is planted and growing in the backyard. Hope to have enough to try this out in a week or so. It sounds great. Thanks!


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