What To Do With A Big Box Of Arugula

Impulse buys at the supermarket can be dangerous. Black and white cookies from the bakery, premium ice cream, or even over-priced filet mignon or lobster tails are guilt-inducing purchases. But impulse buys can be healthy choices, too. Baby arugula, fresh bright green leaves in a big 11-ounce box for only $5 had me at “hello”.

Arugula is an edible, leafy plant with a fresh, tart, and peppery flavor. There is evidence that is has been cultivated and consumed in Italy since Roman times. It has been traditionally grown in home gardens along with herbs like parsley and basil and is now commercially grown and widely available throughout the world. Added to a salad, arugula provides a pleasing pungency. It is often added to pizza and used in pasta dishes. Arugula pairs particularly well with tomatoes and cheeses including fresh mozzarella, burrata, and Parmigiana Reggiano. It is also used as a garnish for fish and seafood dishes. As well as being tasty and versatile, arugula is packed with nutrients, being a rich source of folate and vitamin K and a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.

I didn’t grow my own arugula this year, so I was missing my visits to the deck garden just before dinner to snip a few leaves to add to salad or garnish a pasta dish. I was excited to rework one of our favorite greens into our meals. I didn’t realize at the time of purchase that I would be creating the entire weekly menu around using up every bit of the giant plastic box of arugula.

Our first meal is a garden salad combining a handful of arugula with iceberg lettuce. We’re still getting local Jersey tomatoes from the farm stand, and I’ve been stocking fresh mozzarella to go with the tomatoes. The rest of the salad consists of radishes, green and kalamata olives, and fresh-picked parsley from my herb garden. I’ve been on a Thousand Island dressing kick lately but Italian or a plain vinaigrette will work just as well.

When I open the big plastic box the second day, it still looks completely full. Even though I used a few handfuls of arugula for the salad, I’ve loosened the tightly packed leaves, and they expand to fill the space. I need to make a dish that uses more than just a handful, so the next dinner on the menu is scallops, thin spaghetti, and arugula with garlic and oil.

I first learned how to make pasta with garlic and oil from watching Lydia Bastianich on public television. The basic garlic and oil sauce can be used with a variety of pastas and with different vegetables added. Scallops are especially good when sauteed in butter which is added to this version. You’ll need a pasta pot and a large skillet with a fitted lid for this recipe.

Scallops, Thin Spaghetti, and Arugula with Garlic and Oil (2 Servings)

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces bay scallops
  • 8 ounces thin spaghetti (1/2 box)
  • Several large handfuls of arugula
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Dried Italian herbs
  • Fresh parsley and parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

  1. In a large pot, boil water for pasta and cook as per package instructions.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter on medium-low. Add garlic and dried herbs and sauté for a minute. Add scallops and cook for a few minutes, flipping and basting with the oil mixture until internal temperature is about 120 degrees. They will cook a bit more when mixed with the pasta and arugula.
  3. Drain pasta, reserving a cup of starchy water.
  4. Add pasta to the large skillet on lowest heat and stir to coat with oil mixture. Top with several handfuls of arugula and cover with lid. Allow arugula to partially wilt, stir into pasta, and cover until arugula is fully wilted. Add a few more sprinkles of dried herbs and use some starchy water if needed. Save starchy water in the refrigerator to rehydrate any leftovers.
  5. Serve in a pasta bowl with fresh parsley and shredded parmesan cheese.

With the big box of arugula still driving the menu, I need to get creative to use it all before it ends up in the trash. Next, I’ll make pesto sauce to use with meatballs and linguini, leaving just a few handfuls of arugula to wilt into the pasta. A food processor works best to make pesto sauce. A pasta pot and a large skillet with a fitted lid are also needed.

Meatballs and Linguini with Arugula Pesto (2 Servings)

Ingredients

  • 8 meatballs (see Boozy Lifestyle recipe or use frozen)
  • 8 ounces linguini
  • 2 cups arugula, packed
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Italian herbs, fresh parsley, and shredded parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

  1. In a large pot, boil water for pasta and cook as per package instructions.
  2. Drain linguini and reserve a cup of starchy water.
  3. Place arugula, walnuts, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt in the food processor and pulse a few times. Add oil a bit at a time and pulse until the desired consistency is reached.
  4. If using frozen meatballs, cook according to package directions. Meatballs should be warm before mixing with pasta and pesto.
  5. In a large skillet on low heat, stir cooked linguini, pesto sauce, and meatballs. Top with a few handfuls of arugula and cover with lid. Allow arugula to partially wilt, stir into pasta, and cover until arugula is fully wilted. Add a few more sprinkles of dried herbs and use some starchy water if needed. Save starchy water in the refrigerator to rehydrate any leftovers.
  6. Serve in a pasta bowl with dried Italian herbs, fresh parsley, and shredded parmesan cheese.

TIP: Since this is one of those meals that leaves the kitchen looking like a tornado hit, try to enlist a helper for cleanup.

The Bouchard Aine & Fils Bourgogne Chardonnay 2019 makes a nice pairing for the pasta dishes, especially the scallops in garlic and oil. It’s a dry white burgundy with mineral and citrus notes that provides a light, clean, refreshing complement to seafood. I’ll be writing more about Burgundian wine soon.

Published by J Reilly

Boozy Lifestyle: Elevate The Everyday With Booze As Your Muse by Julia Stacey Reilly is available on Amazon.com. Follow J Reilly @boozy_lifestyle on Twitter and Instagram.

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