If you’ve ever contemplated starting a vegetable garden, or if you want to introduce kids to veggie gardening—or if you simply want something easy and delicious to plant in a pot beside the kitchen door—then you must try growing arugula. Arugula is instant gratification for the gardener: It sprouts within a couple of days and grows to a snippable, salad-worthy size in just a couple of weeks. It’s quite cold-hardy; I’ve had a large pot of arugula growing on the north side of my house since early March.
Easy as it is to grow, you may well find yourself with a glut of arugula. For my money, it’s best picked small and tender; once arugula’s leaves get large and deeply lobed, it takes on a stemmy quality and strong flavor that I like less well in salads.
After Cincinnati’s recent warm spell caused a growth spurt, I found myself with a colander-ful of arugula that was big and long-stemmed. Not great for salad; great for pesto. We grilled a couple of mild Italian sausages and drizzled some of the pesto on top. Delicious.
easy arugula pesto
4 cups (lightly packed) fresh arugula
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
1/2 cup (lightly packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
3 small cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is as smooth or as chunky as you like.
how to use arugula pesto
- serve grilled hot or mild Italian sausages with arugula pesto for dipping
- toss cooked pasta with cooked spring vegetables (shelled or sugar snap peas, asparagus, mushrooms) and arugula pesto
- schmear your pizza dough with arugula pesto before topping
- make crostini with arugula pesto and shredded Parmesan or Fontina cheese; broil until the cheese is bubbly
- mix a few tablespoons of arugula pesto into cooked white or brown rice for an easy side dish
- stir a spoonful of arugula pesto onto a plate of scrambled eggs