Clean(ish) Eating Arugula and Basil Walnut Pesto on Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Toasted Walnuts

red, white and...ok, green...

Everyone needs a go to pasta salad for the summer.  Mine is pesto with cherry tomatoes.  It’s easy, and can be served cold so you can take it to a potluck.

Growing up, my mom had a couple of trademark dishes — Chinese chicken wings and pesto pasta salad.  What? We’re California Jews. You were expecting brisket?  Nope, no kugels or knishes.  Just pesto and wheat germ at my house.  So, pesto reminds me of summertime.

Recently I decided to try half arugula and half basil leaves.  The result was a more peppery and bright pesto.

I always use walnuts over pine nuts; they’re cheaper and better for you.  And I normally hate out of season tomatoes, but it’s evidently been hot enough that we have some tasty grape tomatoes available locally (well, from Pennsylvannia).


  • 1-2 garlic cloves (2 if you like that raw garlic bite)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, plus 1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts for garnish
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, plus more freshly grated to serve
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups fresh arugula leaves
  • about 1/2 cup olive oil or more to taste
  • pinch salt
  • pound of your favorite whole grain pasta (if serving cold, try fusilli or farfalle) or quinoa
  • pint grape tomatoes, halved

Prepare your favorite pasta while you make your pesto.  At the same time, you can toast the walnuts for garnish in a pan on very low heat.  Check often to avoid burning.

Add the garlic and walnuts to your food processor first to avoid big bits in your pesto.  Grind to a fine paste, and then add your basil and arugula leaves.  Process for about a minute and then add the parmesan and pulse a bit more.  Finally, with the processor running, add the olive oil in a stream.  Normally I don’t add salt but I found a bit was needed with the arugula.

Once your pasta is cooked and cooled, if necessary, combine it with the pesto and any additional olive oil in a large bowl.  Add the halved grape tomatoes and the toasted walnuts.  Finish with grated parmesan and a chiffonade of basil leaves if you’re feeling particularly fancy.


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About Mamalicious

Writer, storyteller and mother of two living in Washington, DC. Science enthusiast and pop culture vulture. Ally. Feminist. Bitch with the best intentions. Contributor to
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