I regrettably have not been a big pasta eater over the past few years. Sam has never really been crazy about pasta, and it’s something I used to eat in regular rotation until we met. It’s not that I dislike it, per se, but I just found other carbs more satisfying. Like bread, which I am totally crazy about and in love with. So it surprised me when we visited Italy and Sam ate pasta for every single meal and loved it. There were even two restaurants so good that we visited twice, and both were an inspiration for this Arugula Pesto Bucatini.
One was Roscioli, a small restaurant with a Salumeria and an intimate seating area. Here, they served us All’amatriciana with the most beautiful super al dente bucatini and tiny chunks of crispy guanciale. The effect was unforgettable. The next was at Trattoria Za Za in Florence. Both times we got the Fettucine with Pesto, and it was the most creamy delicious pesto I’d ever tasted. So in an effort to recreate both meals in one, I’ve made Arugula Pesto Bucatini. Top this dish generously with fluffy grated cheese, and you won’t regret it.
This dish only takes about 15 minutes to make. It’s very simple, and it’s best eaten hot, and not as great as a leftover. Let’s get started on this recipe. First, bring a large pot of very salty water to a boil. Make sure you use lots of kosher salt, and it should taste like the sea. That way the pasta will soak in the salt. Add your pasta to the water and boil to al dente.
Next, we’ll make the pesto. I kind of did this in stages so that all the arugula would fit into the food processor. Start by adding your sunflower seeds, lemon juice, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, basil, and pulse it a few times until chopped. Then add a quarter of the arugula and pulse a few times. Add another handful of arugula and pulse again. Turn the food processor on high and pour half of the olive oil into the vent hole while it runs. Add the remaining arugula and while the food processor runs, drizzle in the remaining olive oil.
Next, drain your pasta, reserving half a cup of pasta water. Add the pasta back to its pot immediately and add all the pesto, tossing with tongs to coat. Add a splash of pasta water to help thin out the pesto and coat the noodles. Then top the pasta with a healthy amount of grated parmesan and serve.
- 1 lb bucatini pasta
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- juice of ½ a lemon
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano or parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- kosher salt
- 5 oz arugula
- ¾ cup olive oil
- In a large pot, add 6 quarts of water. Salt it until it tastes like the sea. Then bring it to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in an 8 cup food processor, add the sunflower seeds, basil, lemon juice, garlic, parmesan, and a couple pinches of salt. Pulse a few times until the mixture is chopped. Add a quarter of the arugula and pulse until there's enough room in the food processor to add another quarter of the arugula. Pulse a few times. Turn on the food processor to high and pour in just half of the olive oil through the vent hole while the food processor runs. Stop the food processor. Add the remaining arugula and turn on the food processor to high. Drizzle in the remaining olive oil while the food processor runs. Taste the pesto to see if it needs any salt. Set aside.
- Boil the pasta to al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Then drain the pasta into a colander. Immediately pour the pasta right back into the pasta pot, with any remaining water clinging to it. Add the pesto and a splash of pasta water. Toss it to coat the pasta with tongs.
- Serve immediately in pasta bowls and grate parmesan on top of each bowl generously.