rocket pesto with local ingredients and pasta recipe with peas and rocket pesto
I have been making rocket pesto every season for a few years since I have been growing rocket. Pesto made with rocket leaves, especially the arugula variety is quite flavourful and I prefer it over basil pesto any day.
The arugula variety of rocket grows really well and we keep using the tender leaves for our salads and in omelets but once the plants prepares for flowering the leaves start getting more peppery and one can’t use them as liberally as one would want. The pesto is the solution for the overly peppery mature leaves of arugula as the nuts and oil tone down the sharpness.
In recent years I have started making my pesto with locally available cold pressed oils and the result has been quite encouraging. I love using sesame oil in my pesto, especially when it is made of peppery arugula leaves. Also I have started making all my pesto without cheese as it makes better sense to add the cheese when finishing the dish rather than adding it to the pesto which is made in bulk and is stored for at least a month. Making the pesto without cheese makes it more versatile too, sometimes I use Parmesan shavings over pasta dishes, sometimes cheddar cheese when I smear the pesto over my sourdough pita breads, sometimes a vegan cheese when using the pesto over pizza. You get the drift.
This rocket pesto recipe is actually more of a garden pesto recipe that uses whatever leafy greens are growing in the garden in the particular season. I had some nice baby spinach leaves and used them as I wanted to tone down the peppery taste of mature rocket leaves further, the spinach worked really well. And to my surprise a friend messaged me after I shared the rocket pesto pasta on Instagram that she made spinach and basil pesto inspired by this recipe using sesame oil as I did. Needless to say the use of home grown herbs and leafy greens and locally available oils in a pesto recipe is an idea that goes a long way in making it flavourful and healthier. We are never sure of the quality of olive oil we get in India so using more of the local oils is a better idea.
The more conventional recipe of rocket pesto with olive oil and parmesan is here.
(To make about 800 gm of pesto)
300 gm arugula leaves
100 gm baby spinach
100 gm green garlic leaves and bulbs
100 gm walnuts
100 gm cashews
100+100 ml or more cold pressed sesame oil (I used Organic India sesame oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop all the greens roughly.
Fill everything in the blender jar, saving 100 ml of the oil, and blend using the pulsing action of your blender because you want a coarse paste and not a very smooth mix. Keeping the pesto coarse is the key, it is better done in a traditional mortar and pestle but convenience takes over and I end up using the blender all the time. Make sure the pulsing mode of the blender is used to make pesto always.
Empty the pesto in a sterilised glass jar, press it down with a spoon and pour the remaining oil over the surface so it keeps fresh in the refrigerator. I pour a lot more oil because the oil comes handy when making pasta or other dishes using the pesto.
Refrigerate the pesto immediately, it keeps well for a months. Take care to use dry spoons when taking out required amount of pesto from the jar and maintain a layer of oil over the surface always, pour a bit more oil if needed. The oil gets infused with the pesto and can be used for salad dressings if you like. I take out some oil every time I scoop out the pesto to make a pasta dish like this.
To make the penne and peas pasta with rocket pesto, boil penne (or any other pasta) in salted water. Add peas half way through the boiling pasta and strain them together once both are cooked, the pasta needs to be al dente when you drain it, as it keeps cooking in its own heat even after you strain it.
Add a generous dollop of pesto along with some of its oil to the cooked mix of pasta and peas, toss well to coat and serve as desired. We love this as a cold pasta dish and it is often packed in Arvind’s lunch box, I pack for myself too and keep it on the dining table so I don’t forget in between my writing work. We always have it with soft boiled eggs but feel free to serve some chicken nuggets or sautéed shrimps with it. Sometimes I add cubes of paneer to the pasta dish and it becomes a complete one pot meal.
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