A Duet of Pesto : Rucola Pesto and Red Pesto Recipe

Duo de Pesto

[A Duet of Pesto : Rucola Pesto and Red Pesto]

On Saturday night, my dear friends Marie-Laure and Laurence and their respective (and dear, too) boyfriends Ludo and Jean-Christophe came over for dinner. This had been decided just the day before, so Saturday morning saw me sitting on the couch, surrounded by cookbooks, perusing them for inspiration. In passing, I have plans to create an exercice video which I will simply call “The Cookbook Workout” : I’m certain I burn an insane number of calories just lugging those piles of cookbooks around, from shelf to couch to counter, and back to shelf.

I decided to keep things simple, and skip the first course, replacing it with a little something to eat with the apéritif (pre-dinner drink). I like doing things that way, because it’s a friendly, laid-back way to start the meal, and I like the dynamics it creates, allowing people to hover around the bar and mingle. I also like to welcome my friends with something homemade : they’re probably hungry, and what you eat on an empty stomach is what you appreciate best, so it might as well be something I’ve lovingly prepared, no?

The idea of making pesto variations had been on my mind for a while : you start from the basic pesto recipe (basil, pinenuts, pecorino and/or parmesan cheese, olive oil and garlic), and work from there, replacing some of the ingredients by their cousins, be they close or removed — another kind of herb, another kind of nut, another kind of cheese. In this instance, I made two variations : I made a green rucola pesto, subbing rucola leaves (a.k.a. arugula) for the basil, and I used sundried tomatoes to make a red pesto.

I served both in their little jars, with a basket of thin ciabatta slices and two knives : each of us could prepare his own little canapés, putting as little or as much of the pesto of his choice as suited his taste. In truth I ended up doing most of the spreading while we chatted, but that’s just because I enjoy those things. And you know, these boys get so engrossed in conversation that they’ll starve if you’re not careful.

I will most definitely do this again : it is colorful and tasty, it is incredibly easy to make, and it gives me the perfect excuse to buy a big and beautiful granite mortar and pestle! You can prepare the pestos ahead, and keep them on hand for an improvized mini-meal. The pestos can also be used like regular pesto of course, in pasta, as a sandwich spread, as a salad dressing…

Pesto de Roquette

– 2 large handfuls of rucola, rinsed and dried
– 3 Tbsp pinenuts
– 3 Tbsp parmesan
– 3 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled

Combine all ingredients in mortar (preferably) or a food processor. Pestle or mix until smooth. Try a bit, and add more of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.

Pesto Rouge

– 8 pieces of sundried tomato (packed dry — reduce olive oil by one Tbsp if using packed in oil)
– 3 Tbsp pinenuts
– 3 Tbsp parmesan
– 3 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled

Combine all ingredients in mortar (preferably) or a food processor. Pestle or mix until smooth. Try a bit, and add more of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.

  • Jennifer

    I have an addition to your cookbook work out: you could add sections that pertain specifically to cooking. Say, an eggwhite beating session…good for the triceps. A lifting the KitchenAid and moving it around the kitchen…probably good for the core. Knee bends in front of the oven while baking a souffle. I think we have a money-making scheme on our hands!

  • Adele

    I agree with Jennifer about the egg-white beating and cream beating workouts. I whip mine by hand expressly for this reason, occasionally swtiching sides so my arms won’t unbalanced.

    One of my favorite summer salads is tortellini salad with pesto dressing. Toss warm, drained cheese tortellini with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. When cool, dress with as much basil pesto as you wish, along with matchsticks of multi-colored bell peppers and diced red onion.

  • I agree with both J & A and add butter and sugar blending to the egg beating workout.

    As for pesto, another interesting flavour in lieu of the traditional basil is a wild fennel pesto — great on fresh spaghetti with hot pepper flecks.

  • Megan

    agreed with the other workouts, but let’s not forget the dough kneading, and copper pot lifting! thanksgiving dinners with 18 pound turkeys, will certainly work off that meal.

    for those americans, roquette is arugula in american…and agreed Clotide, it makes a lovely pesto!

  • Oh you could start a session of workout already when you go shopping at supermarkets, walking down every aisle while pushing/carrying an increasingly heavier cart/basket (and if you live in downtown and go shopping without a car, carrying all those heavy bags home would be another round). Handling a Le Creuset skillet would give us another challenge, but just being in a hot kitchen and cooking with the oven and stovetop would certainly help burn extra calories…

    Okay, pestoes. I love them. both basil and roquette ones. People also make a cilantro pesto, but I don’t know about this as I hate cilantro (coriander leaves). I will certainly love a sun-dried tomato pesto, though!

  • Woo, now that sundried tomato pesto is something I’d like to have a go at. Just as I was wondering what to do with my pack of sundrieds sans oil. Yummy.
    We made spinach pesto in Singapore when basil was expensive. It was our ‘poor man’s’ pesto, but it did well. Seems like a pesto is whatever you want it to be!

  • Adele

    Chika —

    Does cilantro taste like soap to you? I hear that’s very common. The leaves do taste soapy to me, and I used to avoid them but it’s kinda grown on me now. I like to add it to fresh salsas and it makes a great Thai-inspired mix with basil and lots of fresh mint.

  • Jennifer, Chika and Megan – Excellent suggestions, I’m making a note of them, will talk to my agent! :)

    Adele – Your tortellini salad sounds heavenly, and is making me hungry!

    Daphne – I don’t think I’ve ever seen wild fennel : does it look like a herb? Or like fennel bulbs?

    Theresa – Let me know how you like it if you try it!

    Adele – Funny the number of people who do not care for cilantro. I discovered it in the US, in Mexican food and I’ve always liked it very much!

  • Adele & Clotilde,
    Tastes like soap? Yeah I think it does. But what I hate the most about cilantro is its smell… it smells like a kind of insects (excuse me!). Apart from Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese dishes often have those leaves in them, which could (in my opinion) spoil the whole dish! Well I guess it is something you either love or hate. I don’t mind coriander seeds, by the way.

  • Alex

    salut Clothilde! I love your blog and read avidly from london. I thought you may like to know of my latest use for your pesto – mixed with fromage frais and spread thinly onto a very thin tarte base (yeasty, pizza-like dough rolled very thin) then topped with the last good tomatoes sliced with shallots – in the oven (250) for 12 mins….Alex

  • Alex – That sounds great, I’ll have to remember that, thanks!

  • Anna

    hey– i don’t know if you’ll get this as it’s some months after the post, but i just discovered your blog and its awesome. i am a college student from north carolina, usa and i LOVE to cook. all of those pesto recipes look great. i also like to make a red pesto with homemade roasted red peppers and toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts. its so yummy!
    love, anna

  • s l

    …I’ll never understand people who don’t like coriander. Try this pesto:

    60g coriander leaf

    60g roasted peanuts

    2 deseeded red chillies

    40g pecorino

    handful prurple basil

    handful flat leaf parsley

    peanut or sunflower oil

  • Natalia

    I grow basil on my balcony, so naturally I had to try home-made pesto. It was delicious and fresh and full of taste, and incomparably better than pesto out of a can. BUT: I thought it tasted a bit too ‘heavy’.

    So ever since, I was on the lookout for a version that tastes lighter. And I found it here:) the rucola pesto IS IT! Tasty, spicy and tastes light as a feather! I had to make it again, I liked it so much the first time.

    Thank you, Clotilde, your blog is a constant source of inspiration for me!

  • Michelle

    Clotilde, I am your newest fan. I have tried several of your recipes with great results, and I enjoy reading your posts. I recently made pesto with a friend who grew a variety of types of basil in her garden: Thai basil, sacred basil, genovese basil, sweet basil, and lime basil. I now have a freezer full of containers of pesto and I am wondering what to do with them. In particular, the lime basil pesto doesn’t lend itself too well to mixing with penne, which is what I do with regular pesto. Besides the canapes, which is a fantastic idea, I wondered if you could come up with some recipes for using these different pestos in cooking, such as with chicken or vegetables. I am hoping you will be intrigued by the challenge! One more thing – we used almonds instead of pine nuts with the sacred basil and lime basil, and peanuts with the Thai basil (since pine nuts cost $35/pound).

  • Chris

    I can feel the delicious taste of this red pesto on a ciabatta bread – the perfect duo.

    Chris – (Get chicken recipes at welovechicken.com)

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