Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Salsa

So the question must be asked “do we really need another pasta recipe on this blog?  I mean, aren’t 47 pasta recipes quite enough?   Yes, people, this is pasta recipe #48, and while I’m inclined to feel a bit sheepish in posting yet another, I hope to make the case for its inclusion in what has recklessly become a serious imbalance in the recipe index.

To that end, I will tell you that the recipe came to me via Beryl, a reader from down under, in an email I opened after a particularly long day at the hospital with Mom a couple of months ago.  I think I had just had a bowl of popcorn for dinner.  Beryl sent a very dear “keep your chin up” email (my chin had most definitely not been up), and she sent this recipe and a photo and told me how she had been making this since 2001 and how it was so easy to throw together when you don’t feel like cooking and that it’s become a favorite family comfort food (they call it “green pasta”).  It would be a few weeks before I got around to making it, but somehow I knew that I would.  

Pretty glad I did, too.  Yes, it’s a quick and easy recipe, but it’s the flavors that will haunt and bring you back for more.  Yes, I did say haunt.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think pasta is at its most delectable when the sauce is assertive and bright and balanced and nuanced and this one is all of that and more.  And here I am in the third paragraph and I haven’t even mentioned that we’re talking about arugula (aka “rocket” to those Brits and Aussies) as the star ingredient here, and how that peppery arugula in all its brash, sassy cheekiness dares to out-flavor and overshadow its more demure pesto rivals.

But it’s those little bites of sweet tomato and the heat from the chiles and the bright notes of lemon and well, cheese.  Yes, there’s cheese, and I think I’ll just stop right there.  The Husband loved it too and I believe he used the word “keeper” or something about making it again, I’m not really sure cuz I was stuffing a bunch of it in my mouth, but yes, I did make it again and that’s how the Circle B recipe index came to have 48 kinds of pasta.  Here’s the recipe…

Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Salsa

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly Vegetarian Cookbook (via Beryl, a reader from down under)

The flavors in this pesto sauce are just outrageously delicious.  I've reprinted the recipe mostly as it was written and noted the changes I made which were simply personal preference.  A couple of those changes had to do with the amount of olive oil called for (2/3 cup) and garlic (8 cloves).  I'm not terribly fond of oily pesto sauces and prefer to add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it down if need be.  And I don't mind a subtle hint of garlic, but 8 cloves sounded a bit like calling in the heavy artillery so I bumped that back a bit too.  If you're not a fan of raw garlic, I pop the cloves (unpeeled) into the microwave for a couple of seconds which softens the flavor a bit. Sometimes I substitute lime juice for the lemon; make that all the time.  I like to also add a little goat cheese to smooth out the sauce and make it a bit creamy.

1 lb fettuccine or linguini

8 cloves garlic, quartered (I used 2)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil (I added a bit more)
120 grams (About 8 cups or 4.25 oz) arugula, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil (I used a little more than 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or lime juice)
(I toasted 1/2 cup of almonds and blended them with the pesto - so good!)

3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2-3 oz goat cheese, optional
2 red thai chiles, thinly sliced (I used a bit more than 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

1.  Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to the package directions (9 minutes for fettuccine and 8 minutes for linguini), or until al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

2.  Meanwhile, blend or process the garlic, basil, lemon juice, arugula and olive oil until it becomes a smooth paste. Taste for salt and add more as needed.

3.  In a large saucepan, combine the cooked pasta with the pesto, the goat cheese (if using) and the rest of the ingredients.  Toss gently to combine, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if needed to thin the sauce.

4.  To serve, top with the pine nuts and extra parmesan cheese.

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