Recipe from The Farm: Pasta with Zucchini and Arugula Pesto

The first time I had pesto, I was 21 years old. I was working as a field hand at Tweefontein Herb Farm in New Paltz, NY, and being charmed by all things herbal. Anne Salomon, the owner, was an eccentric, fierce and beloved South African who insisted that all her workers sit down together in the field for mid-morning rooibos tea, served with sugar and cream on a silver tea set.

Anne was a good cook, and every once in a while she would make an enormous bowl of pasta and pesto and bring it out to the barn where we ate lunch. First it was basil pesto, which I loved immediately and made for myself the rest of the summer. Another day she introduced us to cilantro pesto, which got mixed reviews among the farmworkers, as I recall. Another day it was sage, then parsley. When I saw the recipe below several months ago, I started looking forward to early summer, so I could taste what arugula did to pesto.

I am a big fan of “a little of this, a little of that” cooking, and pesto – with its endless variations – is my kind of dish. Like its more traditional cousin, arugula pesto invites experimentation. Tossing a cup of cherry tomato halves or some rehydrated sundried tomatoes with the pasta would fit well here. Extra zucchini would also be welcome. I sometimes add a dollop of cream cheese to my pestos to smooth out the flavor and texture, and that would be good too. If you’re tired of pasta, tossing this pesto with potatoes would work, and it would definitely add some zing to your favorite sandwich.

Thanks to the Tierra Miguel Foundation CSA, and CSA member Melissa of for sharing this recipe and photo!

Pasta with Zucchini and Arugula Pesto

  • 1 pound pasta (pictured with cavatappi)
  • 1 cup walnuts, coursely chopped
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 zucchini cut into thick matchsticks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arugula, packed
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the walnut pieces and toast for 5 minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan and cool. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. When hot, add the zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 3 minutes.

While the zucchini cooks, grind half the nuts with the arugula and cheese in a food processor. Slowly stream in 1/3 cup olive oil and process until a paste forms. Add more olive oil if needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta. Add the pesto, pasta and remaining nuts to the zucchini and toss.

Back to the June 2009 Newsletter