Home » How To: The Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula Pesto)

How To: The Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula Pesto)

What makes this recipe for rocket pesto so good is the combination of the salty parmesan cheese, the nuttiness of the pine nuts, and the bold flavor of the rocket (or arugula)!

How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula) plated

I would like to preface by saying that I will be using the names rocket and arugula interchangeably throughout this post because I want to, and it makes total sense!

So now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about pesto.

There are many ways to make a pesto and that’s the beauty of it – I have even made the most delicious pesto with artichoke!

I love fresh, easy, and delicious sauces and this recipe for rocket pesto is one of my absolute favorites!

What Is Rocket?

How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula) rocket leaf

Rucola (Eruca sativa), also known as arugula, rocket, and Italian cress, is a type of green that originated in the Mediterranean and has long been used in Italian and French cuisines before its popularity in other parts of the world such as the United States.

It is part of the Brassica, or Cruciferous, a family that includes brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli.

The look and taste of the rocket is distinctive, making it a choice topping for pizza, bold addition to salads, wilted as a warm side dish, or even made into a pesto, like this recipe!

What does Rocket Taste Like?

Rocket, or arugula, is best described as “peppery” and even bordering on “bitter”, like several of its cruciferous relatives – however the size, or maturity, of the leaves matter. The smaller baby rocket leaves are known for their milder, delicate taste while the larger and mature rocket has a stronger, more spicy character.

I find that sometimes when I buy fresh rocket salad, the flavor can vary quite a bit on the spectrum.

If you find that you get a bunch of rocket that are more on the peppery side, remember you can always mix them with milder herbs or greens like basil or baby spinach for a more balanced flavor in a dish or recipe.

Pro tip

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What is Pesto?

How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula) pestare

Pesto (or pesto a la Genovese) is a sauce that uses basil as the main ingredient and comes from Genoa, the capital of Liguria, Italy.

This type of traditional pesto is made with basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and Parmesan cheese and prepared in a mortar and “pounded” (pestare, in Italian) with the pestle, thereby crushing all of the ingredients together.

Today it is common (and thankfully) acceptable to use a blender or food processor, though the texture will be smoother than originally intended.

For my recipe, I opted for the quicker and less labor-intensive method – a food processor!

What You Need For The Rocket Pesto Recipe


To make a really good recipe for rocket pesto you only need five ingredients:

  • rocket (or arugula)
  • pine nuts
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • fresh garlic
  • olive oil


  • mortar and pestle or food processor

How To Make The Recipe For Rocket Pesto

Step 1:

Place cleaned rocket into a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the olive oil. Blitz until the ingredients are uniformly chopped.

How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula)  Ingredients

Step 2:

Drizzle in the olive oil gradually between blitzing until the rocket pesto is smooth and creamy.

How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula) Food Processor

Step 3 :

Season with salt to taste.

How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula) Processed

Rinse and dry your rocket before using to avoid a gritty pesto from any sand that may been left.

For a richer pesto flavor, lighty toast the pine nuts in a skillet before adding them to the other ingredients.

pro tips

What Can I Substitute In A Recipe For Rocket Pesto?

The substitutions you can make in a recipe for rocket pesto are:

  • cheese
  • nuts
  • oils

Here are a few suggestions:

Pecorino SardoWalnutsCanola
Grana PadanoAlmondsGrapeseed
Pecorino RomanoPistachiosSunflower

Can I Make This Recipe For Rocket Pesto Vegan?

Yes, rocket pesto can be made vegan by using plant-based cheese replacements, yeast, or other vegan food product sources:

  • Vegan Parmesan Cheesesubstitute equal parts for cheese in the pesto recipe. These “cheese” products can contain nuts, nutrtional yeast, seeds, beans, rice flour, plant-based oils, and spices.
  • Nutritional Yeast substitute 10-12 grams in place of the cheese in the pesto recipe. It is a deactivated yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) with flavors described as “nutty” or “cheesy”.
  • Aquafabasubstitue equal parts for oil in the recipe. Aquafaba is the liquid that is drained from a can of beans, usually chickpeas. Its function in a recipe is to replace oil or other fats.

This Pesto Recipe Would Go Great With…

Keto Lupin Flour Flatbread

Keto Lupin Flour Pizza Crust with Yeast Flatbread
It’s Basically A Keto Pizza Crust!

Can I Use Seeds Instead of Pine Nuts in Rocket Pesto?

Yes, you can use seeds to replace pine nuts in rocket pesto.

Although pine nuts are technically seeds, they can cause reactions similar to tree nut allergies (like peanuts for example). In this case, seeds would be an ideal alternative.

If you prefer to use seeds in the pesto recipe, here are some that will work well:

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds

What Does A Recipe For Rocket Pesto Go With?

Rocket pesto is versatile and can be served with a variety of dishes including meat, chicken, vegetables, pasta dishes, sandwiches, or as a garnish on soups.

How Long Will Rocket Pesto Stay Fresh?

This rocket pesto recipe will last up to a week refrigerated in an air-tight container.

How To Make Tasty Pesto With Ruccola (Arugula) jar pesto

Pour oil on top of the pesto to keep it fresh and preserve the vibrant color in a refrigerated and sealed container.

pro tip

Can I Freeze Rocket Pesto?

Yes, you can freeze this rocket pesto recipe for up to five months when properly stored. To defrost the pesto simply remove the desired portions from the freezer and thaw at room temperature, for about 1-3 hours.

Two methods for freezing the pesto:

  • snack-size freezer bags (approx. 60 grams or 1/4 cup )
  • ice cube trays
How To Recipe For Rocket Pesto (Arugula) plated

Tasty Recipe For Rocket Pesto

This recipe for rocket pesto is delicious, quick, and easy with just 5 ingredients. Use it with a variety of dishes and easily freeze this sauce for meal prep!
4.94 from 15 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8
Calories 313 kcal


  • mortar and pestle /food processor


  • 100 grams rocket (arugula lettuce leaves) washed and dried
  • 65 grams parmesan cheese (approx. ½ cup)
  • 50 grams pine nuts (approx. ⅓ cup)
  • 150 ml oilve oil (approx. ¾ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • pinch sea salt


  • Place the rocket, cheese, pine nuts, and garlic into a food processor.
    If using a mortar and pestle, add all of the ingredients into the mortar except for the oil.
  • Processor: Blitz until the ingredients are finely chopped. Drizzle oil into food processor in increments, making a creamy pesto.
    Mortar: Crush ingredients with the pestle with turning your wrist as you press. Drizzle in the olive oil a little at a time until all of the ingredients are broken down and the pesto is creamy.
  • Season to taste with salt.


Sodium: 225mgCalcium: 125.1mgSugar: 0.6gFiber: 0.8gPotassium: 123mgCholesterol: 11mgCalories: 313kcalSaturated Fat: 5.6gFat: 32gProtein: 4.6gCarbohydrates: 3gIron: 0.86mg
Keyword arugula, italian, parmesan, pasta sauce, pesto, pine nuts, rocket
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

What is your favorite go-to pesto?

Have you tried rocket pesto?

Leave some tips and tricks in the comments!


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