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Arugula Pesto Pasta

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.
4.50 from 6 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 5
Calories: 454kcal


  • Food processor
  • Wide pot
  • Large pot
  • Colander


Arugula pesto:

  • 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.

To serve:

  • Divide the cooked pasta between bowls and pile the blistered cherry tomatoes on top. Garnish with more basil, if desired. Enjoy!


Calories: 454kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 44g | Sodium: 81mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin C: 29mg
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