Herbs are deceptive in that they are green, and yet not vegetables.
And because of this, many nights for me of empty fridge indecision, in which I consider all the ways I could potentially still salvage my dinner with the vegetable-heavy recipe I probably planned on and abandoned around 2pm that afternoon, have ended for me by justifying herb spaghetti as "not that bad" given the circumstances. It's fairly light. It's easy to make. But what would be OPTIMAL is if I just had some greens to throw there, and if you're smart, you already have learned what it took me until 2016 to figure out: just keep an extra box of leaves in the gd fridge.
And so, this barely-a-recipe recipe is now one of a handful of defaults I turn to when I decide I want to get a large amount of green vegetables into a meal, but am lacking fresh protein sources and already know I'm getting home late. The technique is roughly based on a standard just-winging-it-tonight pesto template, but the end result is... very much not. There are no nuts (and there really don't need to be), the consistency is a little looser and leafier and flakier, and the slight "cooking" of the sauce in the last step brings out the peppery action of the arugula. It's the kind of dish you want in a bowl on your lap on one of those spring limbo Thursdays, where it's verging on warm but still a little gloomy — aka standard February weather in Los Angeles, April everywhere else — and between that narrow window where a cold pesto would be a little too aspirational and where a hardcore saucy red sauce would feel like sad dead weight.
The other reason I keep this recipe back pocket is that it happens to be very easy to cut in half for a date-with-yourself night (which is what I was doing when I took this picture), using just 1 standard 5-oz container of packaged arugula and whatever amount of pasta you feel like eating. You can swing either way on wine — crispy light whites and chill pinot noirs can balance the pepperiness, so you do whatever you feel is right.
Effortful time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
- 10 oz baby or wild arugula, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- 1 large clove garlic
- 6 oz. pasta of your choice, preferably a ridge-y one
- Salt and pepper to taste
- While pasta water is boiling: add arugula, cheese, olive oil, lemon, and garlic to a food processor. Puree until smooth, adding olive oil to smooth it out if it gets pasty.
- Cook pasta til under al dente, about 2 min less than the package minimum. Drain. Save a little pasta water just in case.
- Pour arugula into pasta pot and return to low heat. Toss with hot pasta for 1-2 minutes, stirring to fuse the arugula with the noodles. Top with more grated cheese.
- You're done. Like I said, barely even a recipe. I should be ashamed I counted it but it's really good and I want you to make it so here it is!