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Recipe: Rocket-Sunflower Seed Pesto Pasta

You may have heard of ‘rocket pesto’ (from the alternative name of arugula, roquette) and it’s commonly prepared the same way as a basil pesto.  However, the flavors of basil (traditional pesto) and arugula are so different that I think the arugula needs it’s own pesto flavors.

It’s easy to grow in containers and the longer it grows, the more intense the peppery flavor.  So if you want mild arugula, shop for smaller leaves.  However, I think this pesto needs a robust flavor so I recommend that you choose older, larger leaves (and remember, you can always choose a mix).  You’ll be able to tell a difference between supermarket and farmers market produce.  Ask your farmer to taste a leaf before you purchase it!


Rocket-Sunflower Seed Pesto Pasta

Serves 6

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ pound of arugula
  • ½ cup grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese (plus  a few shavings for garnish)
  • 1-2 lemons, zested and freshly squeezed
  • 1 pound of whole-wheat pasta
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil over low heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.  Removed from heat and let cool.

In the meantime, add the pasta to a pot of salted boiling water and cook according to the package directions.  In a food processor or with a hand blender, puree the oil and garlic mixture with the sunflower seeds, arugula, grated choose, and (most of the) lemon juice.  Blend until smooth, though you might need a couple tablespoons of cold water to thin out the pesto.

Toss the pasta, pesto, and cherry tomatoes.  Garnish with lemon zest and shaved parmesan.



386 calories ∣ 139 calories from fat ∣ 16 g fat ∣ 3 g saturated fat ∣ 49 g carbs ∣ 3 g fiber ∣ 14 g protein ∣ Excellent source of vitamins A, C, K ∣ folate ∣ manganese ∣phosphorous


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