Arugula, Pistachio & Roasted Garlic Pesto

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How can anyone possibly feel guilty over eating a giant bowl of pasta when it is disguised as a serving of greens? In fact, I think I may have seconds.

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Now to stray from the garden path for a moment (I promise that there will be arugula along the way), about six years ago I watched Micheal Arndt’s Little Miss Sunshine for the first time. One scene in particular has really stuck with me. This was when the aviation-obsessed character from the film unintentionally discovers he is colourblind; which instantaneously diminishes all his dreams of becoming a pilot. The usually still character who was in the middle of taking a dedicated vow of silence, immediately burst into a fit of frenzy – cursing and yelling over this misfortune. This scene was so powerful that I could feel the character’s immense disappointment and level of anger. A few years ago when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, the first thing I thought of was that scene. Yes, there are far worse things to be diagnosed with but this still flat-out sucked. I had already spent my life with an annoying dairy allergy and now this newly discovered gluten intolerance wasn’t going to make life any easier. What was I going to eat?! I lived for fresh, soft bread and hearty pastas. Did I really have to give all these goodies up? Alternatively, if I continued to eat gluten, life unquestionably wouldn’t be any easier down the road. If a Celiac continues to eat gluten, serious damage will continue to be done to the body.

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While in the beginning, it seemed daunting to follow a dairy and gluten-free diet, I slowly discovered that there were many delicious alternatives. Yes, it can take some trial and error to find replacements that are closest to the real thing, but it’s worth hanging in.

For this recipe, I used Catelli’s Gluten-free pasta. You won’t be able to tell the difference between this and a wheat-flour pasta. The pasta is a four grain blend of white and brown rice, corn and quinoa. I have also eaten many varieties of rice based pastas but found the texture sometimes overly starchy. Corn pasta is the next best thing after the four grain blend.

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As for the pesto: it is sharp, zesty and savoury. I love it topped with grilled vegetables and shrimp but you can easily substitute your protein with chicken or grilled tofu steaks. The pesto also compliments as a sandwich spread. The idea came to me one day while searching for fresh basil with the original intention of making a basil-based pesto. But being that it’s mid-February in Ontario, the basil was a little lacklustre. Meanwhile, packaged organic and ready-washed arugula was luckily plentiful and crisp! I love the peppery zing of this rocket salad, so I thought why not have some fun in the kitchen. Arugula-based pesto here we go!

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Arugula, Pistachio & Roasted Garlic Pesto served with grilled prawns, cherry tomatoes, zucchini & mushrooms

Prep Time: 20 minutes    Cook Time: 30 minutes     Serves:  Author: Milk and Marigolds

1½ cups of organic arugula (lightly packed down into measuring cup)
½ cup of pistachios (without shells)
1 head of roasted garlic
1 raw garlic clove, smashed
¼ cup of olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt
juice from half a large lemon
1 large zucchini, thinly-sliced into “coins”
6 crimini “brown” mushrooms, thinly-sliced
340 g box of G-Free pasta (Preferably Catelli’s Four Grain Blend)
454 g (1 lb) bag of uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp (or another protein source of your choice)

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, grilled
1 teaspoon amount of crushed pistachios per serving
½ cup packed arugula for garnish
sea salt and lemon wedges for the table


1. Defrost shrimp under cool running water

2. Preheat oven to 400°F.

3. Prepare a large pot of salted water and boil for the pasta.

4. Begin by cutting 2 – 4mm off the tops of the head of garlic so each clove’s flesh is exposed. Drizzle olive oil over the entire head and then cover completely with aluminium foil. Place on baking tray or in cupcake tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cloves are tender and caramelized.

5. While the garlic is roasting, slice the mushrooms and zucchini. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Roughly chop up the arugula. Smash one raw garlic clove under the side of a knife. Crush approximately 4 teaspoons worth of pistachios and set these aside for garnish.

6. Place the arugula, ½ cup of de-shelled (uncrushed) pistachios, lemon juice, salt, raw garlic clove and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blast until smooth. Add an extra tablespoon of olive oil if the paste is too thick. Set aside remaining in the blender.

7. Grill or sauté the sliced mushrooms and zucchini in a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Lower heat and add the shrimp and tomatoes during the last 4 minutes. Cook tomatoes face-down on the grill. Flip shrimp halfway. Lightly season with salt.

8. Take garlic out of the oven, unwrap and allow to cool down. Carefully remove the caramelized cloves from their individual skins. Add half to most of the cloves to the blender with the pesto mixture and blend once more until distributed.

9. Pour the vegetables and pesto mixture over the warm pasta. Lightly drizzle 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Add the cooked shrimp and toss pasta. Individually serve with crushed pistachios, grilled cherry tomatoes and a pinch of arugula as garnish. Salt to taste.

Although the pesto may seem rather peppery on its own, once it is tossed into warm pasta, it settles. Still too peppery? Squeeze more lemon over the dish and toss. Allowed dairy? Sprinkle crumbled feta or parmigiano-reggiano on top of each serving. Pesto will keep in a sealed, refrigerated container for 2 days (although it is best when used right away). Heating the pesto paste in the microwave will change the flavour. Best flavour is preserved when it is kept cool.

Copyright © 2014 . Milk and Marigolds

6 thoughts on “Arugula, Pistachio & Roasted Garlic Pesto

  1. Beautiful pictures! You just can’t beat a shot of freshly cooked, steaming pasta like that… It’s so mouthwatering. I’m all over the idea of your pesto too, since pistachios and arugula are a match made in culinary heaven.


  2. Pingback: Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Cherry Tomatoes, Artichokes & Shrimp | milk & marigolds

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