Recipe: Arugula Pesto with Hazelnuts and Lemon

My strategy on pesto: if it’s green and leafy, it can be pesto.  Basil, arugula, fennel fronds, kale, spinach – all are very fine candidates to be turned into a super flavorful pesto at a moment’s notice. 

While pesto traditionally is a blend of olive oil, pine nuts, basil, and parmesan cheese, this formula can be swapped out for any green, nut, hard/crumbly cheese, and oil to create endless flavor combinations.  The combination presented here is perfect for fall, and makes great use of zesty, peppery arugula that is currently well-supplied in my fridge.  I love arugula for salads due to its super flavorful profile, which also makes it an excellent candidate for pesto – all of that flavor goes right into the sauce.  I paired the arugula with hazelnuts, which can hold up to the pepperiness of the arugula, and provide those soft, toasty, nutty undertones to the pesto which really works well.

I added a squeeze of lemon to brighten this pesto immediately before serving, which I think really helps the heavy, bold flavors pop nicely.  I chose to mix the lemon juice in separately to prevent browning and wilting of the greens, and to keep that freshness and brightness at it’s maximum level by waiting just until serving.  I’ve been storing my pesto with no lemon juice added in the fridge, and mix in a squirt of lemon juice whenever I’m ready to serve.

We had this for dinner last night paired with a grilled flank steak and roasted root veggies (potatoes, turnips, radishes, and beets).  This dinner was excellent along with a nice red wine, because here in quarantine times, we make the most out of our Wednesday dinners!  This pesto would also pair nicely with salmon, pasta, Italian sausage, or even as a hearty salad or grain bowl topper.  I’m planning on posting at least one more recipe featuring this awesome sauce (I couldn’t help myself!) soon, so stay tuned for more ways to use this pesto!

I hope this inspires you to look beyond salad the next time you are overwhelmed with arugula in your next CSA box.  Recipe down below, photo up top!

Arugula Pesto with Hazelnuts and Lemon


  • 2 cups of fresh arugula
  • ¼ cup of hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup of parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Add arugula, hazelnuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and lemon zest to a blender or food processor.  Pulse until fully combined and ingredients form a smooth, green paste. 
    1. If thinning is needed, add more olive oil and pulse to combine.
  2. Remove from the blender and mix in lemon juice.  Serve immediately.
    1. If wanting to store half for later, place one half of the pesto in a container and refrigerate without the lemon juice.  Add half of the lemon juice to the remaining pesto and enjoy, and add the remaining lemon to the other half when ready to serve.



7 comments on “Recipe: Arugula Pesto with Hazelnuts and Lemon”
  1. Muayyad Karadsheh says:

    hahah that is so funny. I just made a pesto sauce from Samin Nosrat book – Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat today! I used pecorino romano, walnuts & almonds, olive oil, basil & parsley, and garlic. She mentioned substitutes as well. She talked about arugula as a substitute to basil. I didn’t know pesto is this versatile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aucellc says:

      I love that book! She makes it on the Netflix version of the book as well, definitely check it out if you haven’t! Your combination sounds really good. If it’s leafy, green, and flavorful, it can pesto!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Muayyad Karadsheh says:

    I watched the Netflix series. I found out about Samin Nosrat because of Netflix. I love almonds & walnuts, and I only had that in my cupboard. I loved it. Yeah, I didn’t know you can use so many types of greens in pesto.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s