I’ve really been wanting to make pasta with pesto and this week I had the perfect opportunity. Daniel and I came back from a busy memorial day weekend, and there was still a lot of leftover arugula I had bought from the week before. It wasn’t going to last much longer, so I decided to make some pesto. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from my favorite cookbook, How to Cook Everything.
Arugula is something that is fairly new to us. We discovered this wonderfully flavorful green when it was served as a simple side salad drizzled with vinaigrette at The Stone Brewing Company in San Diego (such an awesome place). It has a very distinct peppery taste to it and can be overpowering. This arugula in particular was very strong so I was a little bit wary of making a pesto out of it. But mixing it with the olive oil actually toned it down perfectly; it makes a wonderful pesto!
As grilling season is in full swing, Daniel and I have been putting our brand new grill to crazy-good use! We’ve been using it multiple times a week and are enjoying every bit of it. So for a little protein to top this pasta off, grilled chicken was a no-brainer.
Next in line was the fresh parmesan. Normally, I’d buy the pre-grated parmesan. But folks let me tell you, it’s TOTALLY worth splurging on a bit of fresh cheese once in a while. Yes it’s pricey, but for a reason. I decided to buy a chunk of parmesan a few weeks ago and oh. my. goodness. The first time I had a taste it was like an explosion of flavor in my mouth. It was SO fresh! You absolutely aren’t going to get that amount of intense flavor in the parmesan that’s already grated with added preservatives. So by all means, go with the fresh…even if it’s just this once. 😉
So along with the pesto, I tossed the pasta in about a 1/2 cup of the cheese which added richness to the dish. The end result was amazing! Fresh, summery, refreshing and absolutely addicting. When I eat pasta, I don’t normally go for seconds since it’s pretty filling, but for this, seconds was irresistible. And most importantly, it’s husband-approved. You know that dinner was a success when afterwards your husband asks you, “Honey, can you make this again?”
As an added plus, it’s super simple! You can prep the pesto and noodles ahead of time, toss them together along with the parmesan, and chill until your’e ready to fire up the grill. Then once the chicken is nice and charred, fill some bowls with the pasta and top with the chicken and a generous splash of fresh lemon juice. Simple yet elegant. Which also makes it a great candidate for entertaining guests this summer!
Pasta with Arugula Pesto and Grilled Chicken
16 oz. of spaghetti or other pasta
2 c. arugula
1/2 clove garlic
2 T. walnuts
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
Fresh lemon juice
1. Bring a pot of water and a pinch of salt to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, combine arugula, garlic, walnuts, and half of the olive oil in a food processor and pulse; then add the rest of the olive oil and process again. Add salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
3. When the pasta is done, toss it with the pesto and cheese and chill until ready to serve.
4. Cook chicken on a preheated grill until thoroughly cooked; cut into cubes if you’d like.
5. Dish the pasta into separate bowls and top with the chicken and a generous splash of fresh lemon juice.