Spirals with Arugula Pesto and a Poached Egg

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After the laboriousness of those veggie burgers, I thought this next recipe should be decidedly easier breezier, lest you start to think I am some sort of kitchen masochist.

What separates this pesto from any other is a variation on composition: I”ve traded traditional basil for arugula, while toasted hazelnuts stand in for pine nuts. I think it”s a happy redesign. The arugula has a lemony bite, which the hazelnuts mellow and balance. A little roasted garlic, Pecorino cheese, and lemon juice, and you”re in business.

Because it makes a meal, I”ve added a poached egg to the dish. Mix the sunny middle into the pasta in your bowl and you have a sauce that”s more than the sum of its parts. A generous pinch of red pepper flakes takes it over the top.

You should have extra pesto when this pasta caper is over. The great thing about arugula pesto is that it doesn”t brown like the basil variety does. It will remain quite contentedly in the fridge for several days, covered. Feel free to use it on: sandwiches, eggs, pizza, whatever you can think of.

Pesto makes a heaping 1/2 cup; pasta measurements for 2

Ingredients:

  • 5 small cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • Pecorino cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1 cup spiral pasta (spaghetti works too)
  • 2 medium eggs, fresh as possible
  • red pepper flakes, as garnish

Procedure: 

1. Roast the garlic cloves. (I rub the cloves in a little bit of olive oil, wrap them in aluminum foil, and toss them into a 350F oven for about 20 minutes. However, if you are cooking something else in the oven the day of or night before, use the heat of that oven to roast the cloves.) Peel the cloves, and let them cool.

2. Toast the hazelnuts. (You can do this as you roast the garlic, if you like. I keep the hazelnuts in a 350F oven for 10-12 minutes, shaking them around in the pan once or twice during cooking. Remove them from the oven when they are light brown in spots and smell fragrant. If they have skins, you will be able to easily remove them after toasting.) Wait for them to atoledo cool.

3. I use a microplane grater to shred the Pecorino. Grate enough to fill 1/2 cup, not at all packed. If you use a larger-holed cheese grater, stop somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup.

pecorino wegde

4. Move the cooled hazelnuts to a food processor. Pulse for about 1 minute, or until the hazelnuts are reduced to sand. (Make sure not to blend too much, or you will have a paste on your hands.)

5. Add the arugula, the garlic, the Pecorino, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, the salt, and a healthy crack of black pepper to the food processor. Blend for about a minute, slowly adding the olive oil as it whirs. Stop when you achieve a creamy texture. Move the pesto to a bowl and set aside.

lemon end

6. Set two pots of water on the stovetop: 1 large pot, set over high heat, and another small saucepan, set to simmer. You should add enough salt to each pot to make it taste of the sea.

sea salt

7. When the large pot reaches a boil, add the pasta. Cook based on the package instructions, until al dente. When the pasta is finished cooking, remove it from the water, but reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

dry spiral pasta

8. To the small saucepan, add the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. When the water is just barely simmering, crack both eggs into individual ramekins. Gently slide the eggs (I like to do one at a time) into the lemon-water. You can use a spoon to encourage the whites to stick close to the yolk. (This, by the way, is why fresh eggs are important–the fresher the egg, the less likely the whites are to disobediently float willy-nilly away from the yolk.)

9. Cook each egg for 2 minutes, or until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny. (You can test this by gently pressing a finger to the yolk; it should be quite springy.) When the eggs are finished cooking, remove them to a plate or piece of parchment paper.

10. Now mix the pasta together with the pesto. Add at least a few tablespoons of the pasta water, which will help bind the sauce. Spoon the pasta into individual bowls.

11. Top each bowl with a poached egg, an extra sprinkle of Pecorino, a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, and a few good cracks of black pepper. Let each guest crack open their egg at the table.

pesto pasta with closed egg

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6 Comments

  1. Katie (The Muffin Myth)

    This looks like my kind of dinner! I love arugula. In fact, I tried making an arugula pesto before but I sort of freestyled it and it was good but not great. I’ll definitely be trying this version out – the hazelnuts sound like they balance things out just right. And I love tossing a poached or fried egg onto a pasta dish to make it a complete meal. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • CristinaSciarra

      Thanks, Katie! Let me know if this pesto works out to your liking.

  2. Mama

    Very good, except Papa wouldn’t eat the egg, so I had to omit it.

  3. Fiona

    Cristina, your blog is so gorgeous! Everything looks amazing. I can’t wait to try this!

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