Arugula Pesto Pasta with Garlicky Breadcrumbs

An easy twist on traditional pesto made with baby arugula! Bright, peppery in flavor, and easy to prepare, this arugula pesto pasta will quickly become a year-round favorite. 

Arugula Pesto Pasta with Garlicky Breadcrumbs on Plate

Interrupting the festive holiday recipes to bring you this easy Arugula Pesto Pasta

If you’re a fan of traditional basil pesto (and how could you not be?!), I have a feeling you will love today’s version made with baby arugula.

It’s bright in flavor, has a lovely peppery flavor, and is a fabulous alternative in the fall, winter, and early spring when fresh basil isn’t in season or readily available. 

One of my favorite things about arugula pesto is how practical and affordable it is to prepare. 

We pick up a bag or two of baby arugula on a weekly basis and use it in sandwiches, salads, grain bowls, sprinkled on top of homemade pizza, etc. 

Unlike fresh basil, baby arugula comes pre-washed and holds up very well in the refrigerator. 

Whenever we have any leftovers, we whip up a batch of this pesto. It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for later. 

Since arugula is heartier than basil, a little bit goes a long way too. Just one 5-ounce bag of baby arugula yields more than a cup of fresh pesto. 

It produces a vibrantly green, slightly peppery, and brightly flavored pesto. 

While I love to toss it with pasta for a quick weeknight meal, this arugula pesto can be used in a variety of ways. You can serve it with eggs, grilled meat and seafood, or as a spread. Here’s what you’ll need…

Arugula Pesto Ingredients:

  • Garlic – I’m a self-proclaimed garlic fanatic and prefer a garlicky pesto, as it mellows in flavor once tossed with hot pasta. If you’re sensitive to garlic, omit a clove and adjust to your taste. 
  • Baby Arugula – you’ll need 5-ounces of arugula for this recipe. I prefer baby arugula, which is more delicate in flavor than mature arugula leaves, for this recipe. You can also substitute a portion of the arugula in this recipe with basil or spinach. 
  • Toasted Pine Nuts – I prefer traditional pine nuts in pesto and store a small bag in my freezer to prolong their shelf life. If you don’t have pine nuts, walnuts or cashews are other great alternatives. 
  • Lemon Juice – while I don’t generally add lemon juice to traditional basil pesto, I like to add a small addition to arugula pesto for brightness. 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – use a high-quality extra virgin olive oil for best flavor. 
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – the very best! If I’m serving this pesto with pasta, I prefer to leave out the cheese and add it during tossing. 

Homemade Arugula Pesto in Bowl with Spoon

How to Make Arugula Pesto: 

  1. Pulse the garlic cloves in a large food processor until finely minced.
  2. Add the baby arugula leaves, toasted pine nuts, fresh lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Pulse until mostly smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

How to Freeze Pesto: 

Pesto freezes extremely well. If you are making this pesto and planning on freezing it for later use, I recommend omitting the cheese in the pesto mixture until you’re ready to use it. 

Transfer to a container, top with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, and an airtight lid. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on a countertop until room temperature. 

Pasta with Arugula Pesto topped with Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Arugula Pesto Pasta

To make this pasta a little bit more special, we’re topping it with garlicky breadcrumbs! This isn’t the first time that I’ve topped pasta with crispy breadcrumbs and it certainly won’t be my last.

It might seem a little redundant, but it adds a lovely contrasting texture. For added flavor, I also like to reserve a small handful of toasted pine nuts for garnishing as well.

Homemade breadcrumbs offer the best flavor and texture (I like to make them with leftover sourdough bread!), but panko breadcrumbs are an easy alternative. 

How to Make the Garlicky Bread Crumb Topping: 

  1. Heat a tablespoon of extra olive oil in a medium skillet.
  2. Add a cup of homemade breadcrumbs and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until they are golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add one clove of minced garlic and continue sautéing for an additional 30 seconds or so. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.


Arugula Pesto Pasta on Plate

Arugula Pesto Pasta: Tips for Success

Before draining the pasta, be sure to reserve some starchy cooking water. Transfer the pasta back into the warm cooking pot, add the arugula pesto, and add a splash of pasta water. Toss and serve. 

If you enjoy this arugula pesto, try this walnut sage pesto next! 

Arugula Pesto Pasta with Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Arugula Pesto Pasta with Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Yield: 4 Servings ; 1 Cup Pesto

An easy twist on basil pesto made with baby arugula! Bright, peppery in flavor, and affordable to make, this arugula pesto pasta is a great weeknight dinner for every season. Topped with garlicky breadcrumbs, this elegant pasta will quickly become a favorite! This recipe yields a cup of homemade pesto.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

Garlicky Breadcrumbs:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 
1 garlic clove, very finely minced

  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Arugula Pesto Pasta:

  • 
3-4 large garlic cloves
  • 
5 oz baby arugula
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnishing
  • 
1 tsp lemon juice
  • 
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces dried pasta (*I recommend bronze-cut rigatoni, fusilli, farfalle, or spaghetti)

Instructions

    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

    2. Prepare the Garlicky Breadcrumbs: Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until they are golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for an additional 30 seconds or so. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

    3. Prepare Arugula Pesto: Pulse the garlic cloves in a large food processor until finely minced. Add the arugula, pine nuts, lemon juice, and olive oil. Pulse until mostly smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

    4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer the pasta back to the same pot, add the arugula pesto, grated parmigiano cheese, and toss until evenly coated - adding a couple splashes of pasta cooking water as necessary.
    5. Serve the arugual pesto pasta with a sprinkling of garlicky breadcrumbs. Top with additional toasted pine nuts (as desired) and grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 555 Total Fat: 39g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 30g Cholesterol: 7mg Sodium: 568mg Carbohydrates: 42g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 2g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 12g
A Beautiful Plate provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietician.

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