This arugula pesto pasta is the quick meatless Monday recipe you need right now. It’s so easy to throw together and pistachios and arugula make a serious dream team in this arugula pesto recipe.
I love experimenting with different pesto flavors and pistachios are one of my favorite nuts to use in pesto. This pesto uses sweet basil, pistachios, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and lots of arugula for a rich pesto that sticks to every single noodle perfectly.
You can use parmesan cheese in yours, but for this arugula pesto recipe, I skipped that in favor of an extra buttery sauce. If you’re feeling especially decadent, throw freshly grated parmesan right in the food processor with the arugula!
How to make this arugula pesto pasta:
The foundation of this recipe is just a few elements:
- Buttery aromatics
- Arugula pesto
- Cooked pasta
- Pasta cooking water
- Blistered cherry tomatoes (optional)
First, prepare your aromatics. Heat oil in a wide pot and add minced onion and a minced red Fresno chili pepper. Let them cook over medium-low heat as you prepare the pesto and the pasta. Right as your pasta is about to finish cooking, throw in butter and let it bubble for about 4-5 minutes. You don’t need tremendously high heat for this at all.
Next, prepare the arugula pesto. Combine the nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until blended. Add the arugula in batches and continue pulsing until it is minced. Slowly add the extra virgin olive oil. Finally, add the basil and continue pulsing until it is smooth. Season it with salt and black pepper to your preferences.
Finally, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Scoop out 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
If you’d like to blister the cherry tomatoes, wipe out the pot and heat a bit of oil in it. Add the cherry tomatoes over medium heat and allow them to blister as you finish the recipe.
To finish the pasta, simply add half the pasta cooking water to the bubbling buttery aromatics. Bring to a boil and add the cooked pasta. Once the pasta is coated, add the pesto and toss to coat. Use the remaining half cup of pasta cooking water to loosen up the pesto as needed.
Serve that beautiful pasta with the blistered cherry tomatoes on top!
How to modify the pesto:
Want to try different ingredients in the pasta? Here are a few suggestions:
- Arugula: Spinach, pea shoots, chopped kale, carrot tops, or use all basil
- Pistachios and pine nuts: Use your favorite nut or seed. Try it with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, blanched almonds, or walnuts!
- Basil: Parsley
Looking for more vegetarian recipes? Check my archives!
If you made this recipe, please rate it and comment below! You can also follow me and share your creations by tagging me! I’d love to feature your #triedandtruerecipes creation on my feed.
Arugula Pesto Pasta
- Food processor
- Wide pot
- Large pot
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 5 cloves garlic peeled
- 5 ounces arugula
- ½ ounce basil leaves plus more for garnish
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more if needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoon neutral cooking oil divided
- 1 yellow onion peeled and small-diced
- 1 red Fresno chili pepper minced (or use crushed red pepper)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 16 ounces dry pasta like shells, rigatoni, or penne; 1 cup pasta cooking water reserved
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the aromatics:
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often for 5-6 minutes until it begins to turn translucent. Add the red Fresno chili pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Turn the heat to low and allow the onions to simmer in the oil as you finish the pasta and the pesto. Stir the onions occasionally to prevent them from burning.
Prepare the pesto:
- Combine the pistachios, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely minced.
- Add the arugula in batches and continue pulsing until all of the arugula is minced.
- Slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil and pulse until smooth. Add the basil leaves and continue pulsing until everything is incorporated and finely minced. Add more extra virgin olive oil, if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cook the pasta:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and wipe out the pot.
Cook the tomatoes (optional):
- Immediately return the pot to the stovetop and add the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral oil. Turn the heat to medium and add the tomatoes. Allow them to sizzle in the oil for 5-6 minutes as you finish the rest of the recipe. Once the skins are split, turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Finish the pasta:
- Turn the heat on the aromatics to medium-high. Add half the pasta cooking water and bring it to a boil. Allow it to reduce and thicken for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and turn the heat to low, and toss to coat.
- Immediately add the pesto and continue tossing gently to coat the pasta with the pesto. Add more pasta cooking water, as needed, to loosen up the sauce—taste and season to your preferences. Turn off the heat.
- Divide the cooked pasta between bowls and pile the blistered cherry tomatoes on top. Garnish with more basil, if desired. Enjoy!