Curly Parsley and Arugula Pesto

February 26, 2013(updated on August 30, 2021)

arugula and parsley pesto

More often than I like to admit, I buy groceries without any sort of plan as to what to do with them. This isn’t much of a problem when the impulse item is a loaf of fancy sourdough (toast! bread crumbs! croutons!) or a bag of lovely pears (salads! snacks! tarts! jam!), but things get more challenging when I end up buying two very large bunches of curly parsley without any sort of strategy.

parsley and arugula

The parsley was my most recent spur-of-the-moment purchase. I was at Reading Terminal Market (it’s Philadelphia’s original market and is still a wonderful place to have lunch or buy groceries). One of the produce stalls was selling gorgeous, curly, green parsley, two bundles for $1. It seemed too good to resist and so I added it to my basket. When I got home, I closed the bag tightly and tucked it into the crisper, certain that inspiration would strike. My mom makes a wonderful stew with lamb, red kidney beans, lemon juice and lots of parsley. I thought I might make that.

toasted pine nuts

Instead, the parsley sat (isn’t that always the way?). On Sunday morning, I was doing a little refrigerator clean-out in preparation for a Costco trip and rediscovered that parsley, as well as some woefully neglected arugula. I picked through both bundles and gave all the good parts a thorough rinsing. When I was done, I had two cups of tightly packed greens.

into the food processor

Digging through the fridge, I discovered that I had all the rest of the necessary ingredients to make pesto. I toasted pine nuts that I’d been hoarding, and processed them with the parsley and arugula, as well as a couple garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and olive oil.

It took all of ten minutes and felt so good to find a use for the parsley instead of simply consigning it to the trash can. There’s pasta on the horizon this week, as well as farro salad with feta and pesto dressing. It’s also lovely smeared on toast with a dab of ricotta cheese.

Have you rescued any destined for the trash ingredients lately?

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Curly Parsley and Arugula Pesto


  • 1 1/2 cups packed curly parsley
  • 1/2 cup packed arugula
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts walnuts are a good substitute if pine nuts are too dear
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to cover
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5-6 turns of a pepper grinder


  • Place parsley, arugula, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic cloves into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Then, running the motor, stream in the olive oil.
  • Stop the motor, scrape the walls of the bowl and pulse again, until everything is well-incorporated. Add salt and pepper and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust spices, if necessary.
  • When the pesto is processed to your liking, scrape it into a mason jar. For best refrigerator life, cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil. When you go to remove pesto from the jar, make sure to use a clean spoon and refresh the olive oil layer.


The pesto will keep 5-7 days in the fridge.

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21 thoughts on "Curly Parsley and Arugula Pesto"

  • when I first moved to Maryland, I didn’t realize that herbs would be so fresh, so cheap, and there all the time (I moved to Phx, Az). My first few trips to the farmer’s market, I grabbed as much herbs as possible. Then realized that herbs grow like weeds out here lol. I have jars and jars and jars of pesto in my freezer. I love pesto. It’s so versatile and can be used for anything. I love adding a dollop of pesto over goat cheese and crackers!

  • Who doesn’t buy groceries with no plan from time to time (or most of the time…uh, yeah)? I think this pesto sounds like a perfect way to rescue greens and herbs before they turn to mush–especially since you can eat it on just about anything. 🙂

  • Tonight I am making soup with the last bits of carrots, beans, and tomatoes from my freezer and parsley and mushrooms that are wasting away in the fridge. Hooray for soup!

  • Refrigerator soup (everything left in the ‘frig chopped w/ chicken broth) and fritittas (sp?) are great ways to use up random bits of ingredients.

    I also have a recipe for Spring Greens Soup which uses whatever mixture of greens you have along with 1/2 strength chicken broth, onion, and a bit of small sized pasta. What makes it special is that you add a bit of grated parmesan, vinegar/citrus juice and fresh ground fenne right before serving. Yum!

  • Marisa, pesto is one of our favorite things to make because we can make it, freeze it, and enjoy it all winter long. We make garlic scape pesto, parsley pesto, and basil pesto. Our trick to preserve the harvest is to make the pesto and pack it into plastic sandwich bags of about 3 to 4 tablespoons each, squish the pesto to the bottom of the bag, flatten it out a bit, and freeze it. We call it presto-pesto because it thaws very quickly and makes a fast meal.

  • I do that too! I’m trying so hard to stop; it’s like an addiction! Your uses for this sound phenomenal.

  • Last night I rescued some beginning to go button mushrooms. I’d made a great chicken soup from homemade chicken stock and veg and some skinny coil fideo pasta and saw the mushrooms. What a lovely addition to an old standby. Thanks so for the reminder of pesto as a way to easily preserve perfectly good food for later use. Do love your posts!

  • That pesto sounds awesome– love spicy arugula!

    I am trying my best to rescue produce from the trash. I used to be much worse…lots of wasted veggies. Now, when cooking each night, I open the produce drawers and see what could be added to the dish. It’s working pretty well! Like Kathleen said, soup is a great way to use up vegs, too.

  • And another wonderful use for parsley pesto that I discovered a couple of days ago is drizzling a healthy dollop onto spicy chickpea soup. I’m not a big fan of parsley but had the chance to have lunch in a place I can’t normally get to during the week. Chickpea soup with dried tomatoes and parsley pesto was what was on the menu and I sort of thought that maybe I could push the pesto to the side a bit and avoid most of it. But it was absolutely delicious (even more so because he was just finishing making a new batch as I walked in the door?). Pine nuts are so expensive that I’ve never made pesto but I do like it. Must try out some of the recipes with alternatives to pine nuts this summer.

  • Funny you ask…Just the other night I saved a quart of heavy cream from it’s inevitable trash can fate and made a simple alfredo courtesy of Macheesmo’s site and some scones from the lovely blogger of Smitten Kitchen 🙂

  • Not being found of the traditional pesto (I think I’ve over consumed it!), this looks like a tasty alternative. I’m wondering if anyone had experimented with making pesto out of other greens?

    1. Cilantro is a common substitute for basil. I’ve also made with spinach and goat cheese. Whatever green you use would need to be tasty/tender raw. For that reason collard greens or end of the year kale probably wouldn’t work.

  • Looks great. We’re working hard on an extra-large bunch of cilantro. I might end up freezing it and then chop it into soups. Not ideal, but better than the trash.

    Yesterday I saved peach juice from home-canned peaches and made it into gelatin with a few frozen blueberries dropped in. Actually, I put it in little quarter-pint jars to pack for the kids’ school lunches:

    I’m quite pleased with that rescue!

    1. Hey Marisa, thanks for the share on Facebook! (I saw it through my husband’s account – I’m not on Facebook). I wanted to say that the little cups have stayed firm for several hours at room temperature using regular unflavored gelatin. I’m sure agar works fine, but the gelatin is working fine, too, FYI.

  • My family loves ‘Clean Out the Fruit Bowl Fruit Salad’. It is different every time. Today I will be making it with the last of the grapes (no one ever eats the last of them!) two tired orange, three very ripe pears, an apple (with a small bruise that no child will eat around) and two bananas with spots! Its magic! Fruit that no one would eat – to a fruit salad that disappears from the fridge before days end.