Orecchiette With Arugula Pesto & Almonds


I first tasted this dish on our recent trip to Puglia at a small restaurant in Vieste which is on the Gargano peninsula. That area is famous for it’s citrus and almond trees so I found a number of recipes that included these within them. I’ve always loved making arugula pesto sauce as I find the peppery bite of arugula is delicious and serve this sauce on seafood or on pasta. In this pesto sauce I used almonds instead of pine nuts as I usually would since I wanted to re-create the flavors of Puglia, and then topped the pasta with some additional chopped toasted almonds for both texture and flavor.

The amount of olive oil is approximate as you may find you need a little extra, or prefer a thicker sauce and prefer to use less. I added a squeeze of lemon and a little chopped red chile pepper to brighten and lift the flavor of the sauce as well. I also had some leftover arugula that I chopped up and tossed into the hot pasta along with the sauce but it really wasn’t necessary. Although there was no cheese in the pesto sauce nor was any offered to top the dish, if you like your grated cheese on your pasta, I’d recommend grated pecorino or caciocavallo for this dish.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

Orecchiette With Arugula Pesto And Almonds

A Pugliese dish with a vibrant fresh flavor.

Ingredients:

For The Arugula Pesto Sauce:

  • 1/4 – 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic Cloves – Peeled & Finely Chopped
  • 3-4 Cups Fresh, Washed Arugula, or about 2 Bunches
  • Salt & Pepper – To Taste
  • Juice From 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 Small Chopped Red Pepper (Optional)
  • 1/4 Cup Chicken Broth (If Needed To Thin The Sauce)
  • 1/4 Cup Toasted Blanched Almonds

To Garnish:

  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Toasted Blanched Almonds
  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons Diced Tomato

To Serve:

  • 1 Pound Homemade or Store Bought Orecchiette Pasta
  • Grated Pecorino or Caciocavallo Cheese

Directions:

  1. Put your large pot of lightly salted water on to boil.
  2. While you wait, place your arugula, garlic, lemon juice, red pepper (if using) and almonds into a food processor and pulse until chopped.
  3. Begin to add the oil bit by bit processing until you have a smooth sauce.
  4. You may use a little chicken broth to thin the sauce if you prefer.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook your orecchiette until it is “al dente“.
  7. If fresh or homemade it will only take minutes.
  8. If dried, follow instructions on the package.
  9. Drain, reserving a small cup of pasta water.
  10. Add the pesto sauce to the pasta and toss well, using a little of the pasta water if needed.
  11. Serve into individual bowls and top with some of the diced tomato and chopped almonds.
  12. Offer grated cheese at the table.