Rocket pesto

I make this in England and people get upset that my pesto has no basil in it. It’s not like there’s a rule that says pesto has to have basil in it. In fact, there are no rules in the kitchen. And that’s worth saying again. There are no rules in the kitchen. Just creativity and fun. And don’t throw knives at each other, perhaps.

I deliberately omit quantites from the “Ready” section because amounts are completely up to you. You see, there simply cannot be a science to this. Anyway, I reckon it changes every time I make it. I never measure the oil but prefer to use my eye to make sure the sauce looks wet. The number of cloves of garlic I use will be determined by their size and how brave I am feeling that particular day (and whether there is anyone I want to kiss passionately). I put my hand in a bag of pine nuts and throw in whatever comes out. I keep tasting it though, until I have it just right for me. I figure my guests can always add their own salt! And as long as I like it, frankly I am not too bothered what other people think. Really.


  • Rocket
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesean
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Seasoning


  • Food processor
  • Storage container


  1. Place a substantial amount of rocket (at least 2 bunches or 1 pre-packaged bag) into the food processor. Add the garlic, a handful of pine nuts, a good amount of parmesean and plenty of oil.
  2. Blitz to a coarse paste.
  3. It is essential to taste it at this point. Add more of any ingredients to get it just right and season to taste.
  4. Keep the pesto in an air-tight container in your fridge. It will be a good friend on nights when you can’t be bothered to cook. All you need do is stir it into your pasta of choice.

What you should know

You may have to make this in stages. Don’t overstuff the food processor.

Rocket varies in flavour depending on where it is grown, when it is picked and a dozen other variables. Always try and taste before you buy. Never be afraid to ask a supermarket employee for a sample at the salad section. Ideally, though, seek out the varieties sold at your local farmers’ market.

Re: Rocket pesto

Two things. First is that I would suggest that you toast your pine nuts in a cast iron skillet to bring out the oils before you blitz them with the rest of the ingredients.

Second, I have discovered after careful scientific experimentation that so long as both you and your partner have ingested equal quantities of garlic you can kiss without worry.

Re: Rocket pesto

Thanks for the tip about the pine nuts. I’ll give it a shot. As for the garlic, you are quite right. Did you know, by the way, that chewing on parsley takes away the garlic smell from your breath. That’s why I always keep a fresh sprig in my wallet.

Re: Rocket pesto

Can’t imagine anything stays all that fresh in your wallet.

Re: Rocket pesto

It took me a moment, until I figured out that rocket was arugula. Good stuff.

Re: Rocket pesto

This truly is a great recipe. Just made it again and confirmed my suspicion that to really get the most out of your sauce it is essential that you don’t cook it at all. Even mixing it in the hot pan you used to cook your pasta takes much of the edge off. Today I mixed it an a clean, cool bowl and found that it retained all the kick of the garlic and the aromatics of the rocket. Oh, and I added a small squeeze of lemon just to sharpen it all up.

Re: Rocket pesto