Some folks call it wild rocket, others – rucola or rugula, arugula, some – ruchetta or roquette, but all the names usually point to the same plant – Eruca vesicaria – one of the most common leafy greens of modern times that’s usually a love-or-hate ingredient. It has that pungent mustardy flavour, so prominent that classical Roman authors would attribute some aphrodisiacal properties to it, considering it as a stimulant. Some argue that rucola is hence better mixed with common lettuce – the calming opposite to the exciting leafy green. But we are here just to innocently enjoy its peppery flavour and to learn how to tame it and work with it.
To acknowledge Roman position on the invigorating nature of arugula and to bond it to the modern times, we suggest that you try to prepare a simple pesto. This sauce is so ubiquitous and popular that it seems that everybody knows how to make it. The thing that not everybody knows, however, is that pesto does not necessarily include basil and pine nuts, as in classic recipes of pesto alla genovese. Strictly speaking, pesto is a generic term for anything that can be made by pounding. Simple tweaks and twists and you’ve got yourself a perfect vibrant green sauce that goes well with any protein. To make it, you’ll need two cups of fresh arugula, some chopped nuts of your choice (take walnuts, pine or almonds), a couple of garlic cloves. Put everything together in a food processor and blend until you get a smooth paste. With running processor, pour 80 ml / ⅓ cup of olive oil in a slow stream and wait until a nice consistency is reached, Then add 50 gr / ½ cup of grated parmesan and a splash of lemon juice, pulse to combine, season to taste and serve your vibrant arugula pesto on a grilled turkey breast or on a roasted steak.
The charm of arugula is that it doesn’t have to be cooked at all to bring the freshness and its distinct aroma to the table. That’s why it’s so heavily used as a pizza topping and mixed in a salad. Try to mix it with watermelon, brined feta and a simple vinaigrette or balsamic dressing. Add arugula as a side dish to any seared steak with a wedge of lemon and chopped rosemary. Toss it with tomatoes and add to your pasta. Or wilt it together with spinach in a skillet with some butter and add to a seafood plate. The possibilities are endless, enjoy the greens!