Wednesday, March 7

Arugula Pesto

This is another one from the unposted archives.  It is, however, a timely one.  Tara and I have been in a dinner rut recently, falling back on dishes that rely heavily on tomatoes. While they're good, I really need to make an effort to seek out some tomato-free pasta (and other) dishes.

I was doing a search on tomato-free pasta dishes and what came up were tomato-free pasta sauces that included things like beets, roasted red peppers, and sometimes squashes.  That's all well and good, but I need something fairly easy and that doesn't require lots of steps.  Then, as I was going through my draft posts, I happened upon this one for pesto.  And I literally hit myself on the forehead.

How could I have ever forgotten pesto as a great, tomato-free pasta dish?!  (Incidentally, it is also onion-free and could be made garlic-free.)  The preparation is fairly simple and can probably be done in under 15 minutes.  Basically, in the time that it takes to cook your pasta, you could have the pesto ready.    

Arugula basil pesto

Use this recipe as more of a suggestion and starting place than a concrete, hard and fast rule.  With the seasonings, garlic, olive oil, etc., start with a little bit and keep adding until you are satisfied with your result.  Also, use all pine nuts or use all pumpkin seeds.  Toast the nuts or don't toast.  Use more basil and less arugula.  Etc.  Basically, make it yours.

Updated 4/3/12 to add: Arugula can be a little bitter.  If your pesto is too bitter, add more basil to counter balance.  If that doesn't work, top your final dish with a good amount of shredded Parmesan.  I find that works for me.

You can use a mortar and pestle for small batches, but definitely break out the food processor or blender for bigger jobs.

  • 2 large handfuls of arugula
  • 1 very small handful of basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons garlic*
  • ~ 1/4-1/3 olive oil*
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (to taste, but at least 1/4 cup)*


Pulse arugula and basil in food processor a few times. Add pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and garlic; pulse a few times. Turn your food processor on and drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube. Turn off the food processor and check the consistency; add more olive oil and pulse if you need to.  Add in a bit of lime juice, maybe a teaspoon or so at a time, and pulse; check the flavor as you add until you get it to where you like it.  Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse to disperse; again, check the flavor as you add until you're satisfied.

Serve with pasta and sauteed mushrooms.


1. You can make this garlic-free by leaving out the garlic (duh...).  The arugula has a nice, spicy kick, so the garlic probably wouldn't be missed.  You might need to punch up the lime juice and pepper to compensate, though.  I haven't tried it, but let me know how it works if you do.

2. As you can tell from the photos, we like our pesto on the paste-y side where it's almost as thick as a spread, so we use only a little bit of olive oil - just enough to thin out the mixture a bit.  Most people seem to like their pesto thinner; if you are one of those, use more olive oil.

3. Regarding the Parmesan, if you are baking a large batch and planning to freeze, don't include the Parmesan.  Sprinkle the Parmesan on your dish when you mix in the pesto.  If you are not planning on freezing, you can mix in the Parmesan while everything is in the food processor.  That said, we rarely add Parmesan to the pesto anyway, because Tara doesn't like it on her pasta so much.


  1. YUM, I am stealing this. I love pesto and arugula pesto sounds quite tasty. I love the idea of the pepitas in there too. :)

    1. I hope you enjoy! Let me know how it works out for you!

  2. I'm the author of one of those Tomato Free Sauces with beets and what not. Before today I had never even heard of Porphryia but I reviewed your restricted foods list and poked around the site a bit before commenting. I hope I got it right.

    I'd recommend the following adjustments to the sauce linked above: leave out the garlic and onions (a friend does this for Acid Reflux and still raves about it!), use fresh squeezed lemon in place of bottled juice, exclude the basalmic vinegar (this is a throw back to tomato sauce and used to mellow the flavors, I've forgotten it and been fine). If sweet potatoes are an issue or concern, I recently made it with a can of pumpkin puree instead and it was just as good.

    If corn starch is a concern arrow root or any other starch should work just as well (or just boil until desired consistancy before adding beets. Beets turn brown when cooked too long. And that is also my final point, if using for lasagna don't expect a red color when done as the baking will turn the sauce brown (it is still just as tasty!)

    1. Jason,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to get informed on the restrictions with Porphyria. Your suggested changes to your recipe sounds spot-on. I will definitely have to try it out soon!


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