Confident home cooking
Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Arugula Walnut Pesto

by Nick

Apparently you all love Anne Burrell!  Who knew?  She rocked the poll last week with her book Cook Like a Rock Star.

As I mentioned in my review of this book many months ago, I really love the book in theory.  The problem comes when you actually want to cook from it.  A lot of the recipes require pretty rare and/or expensive ingredients.

So I tried to pick a recipe that would be accessible to people.

The pasta recipes called out to me.  She really knows her pasta and while she pretty much always recommends making fresh pasta, a lot of the recipes can be easily adapted to use dried pasta.

This recipe caught my eye this week so I went for it.  It turned out to be really interesting and delicious.

Enough for 1 pound of pasta.
Prep Time
Total Time
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Arugula Walnut Pesto

Arugula Walnut Pesto


  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup hot pasta water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Big fat finishing oil

Helpful Equipment


1) Lay out walnuts on a sheet pan and roast them for about 6 minutes at 350 degrees. Watch them closely and turn them once half way through.

2) Combine walnuts, arugula, cheeses, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until it's a rough paste.

3) Drizzle in olive oil and pulse again.

4) Add pesto to a small pan and add about 1 cup of hot pasta water to the pan. Stir well.

5) Bring to a simmer, stir in cream, and continue to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

6) When pasta is done, drain it and add it straight to the pesto.

7) Serve with a drizzle of finishing oil and extra grated cheese.

Recipe from Cook Like a Rock Star.

The Basics

A normal pesto recipe is based on buckets of basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.  A lot of times I won’t even follow a recipe for it.  I’ll just kind of wing it with those ingredients.

This is a very similar recipe in theory but substitutes arugula for the basil and walnuts for the pine nuts.

Speaking of nuts, I’m pretty sure Anne Burrell is one.  Under this recipe in her book she writes in big bold type:

“I love the feel of nuts in my mouth!”

Ok Anne.  I don’t really know what to think about that so here’s a photo of some nuts just so we can make sure we are on the same page.


Love these!

Anne recommends, and I agree, that you toast these bad boys before using them.  Just lay them out on a baking sheet and bake them at 350 degrees for about 6-7 minutes.

I recommend setting a timer and watching them closely because these will go from perfect to burnt in about 30 seconds.

Making the Pesto

Arugula is no where near as flavorful as basil so you really need to use a lot of it for this recipe.  Don’t worry about over-doing it.


No basil needed.

Once your walnuts are toasted, add them to a food processor with a good amount of arugula, grated cheese, and some minced garlic and you’re ready to go!


Ready to blend!

Pulse this down until it’s a rough paste and then drizzle in your olive oil and continue to pulse.


Perfect paste.

Finishing the Pesto

The key to finishing this pesto, which is now way to dry to really use, is to make a sauce out of it.

To do this, add the paste to a medium saucepan and get it cooking over medium heat.  Then add about a cup of hot water from the pasta that you’re cooking straight to the pot!

This water will be salty and starchy and really help make this pesto into something useable.


Magic ingredient.

Once you get the pasta water stirred in, go ahead and add some cream and your sauce will really come alive.

The color of this is amazing!


Love the color.

Put this back on the heat and keep it warm until your pasta is done.

The Pasta

Anne’s big on homemade pasta and so am I.  I kind of think of homemade pasta as a special occasion thing though and not an every night situation.

So I just used some dried linguine and it worked great.

pasta done

Homemade pasta would be best…

Big Fat Finishing Oil

In about 25% of the recipes in this cookbook, Anne recommends finishing the dish with what she called a “Big Fat Finishing Oil.”  What she means by this is a really good quality olive oil (read: expensive).

You would never actually cook with this stuff because the heat would immediately break down the flavors.  You just drizzle it on right before you serve the dish.

I’m not an olive oil expert, but I picked out a nice bottle that definitely tasted a lot fresher than the stuff I use to cook.  It worked great to finish the dish.


Big Fat Finishing Oil?

Once the pasta is drained just stir it into the sauce and then serve it up!

Extra grated cheese and a good drizzle of the nice oil rounds out the pasta perfectly.


Really tasty!

I’m was really surprised by the flavors in this pesto.  They were very different from normal pesto.

It was a great change and Betsy and I both gave it two big fat finishing thumbs up!