Arugula is a magnificent green. A member of the mustard family and a close relative to the radish, this spicy green is much more versatile than most of us realize. These days, it’s commonly sold as part of mixed salad packages — which I think is a crime because its unique peppery flavor is completely masked by the other greens. I’m not saying that mixed salad greens are bad, I’m saying if your only exposure to arugula is from a plastic box as part of a conglomeration of greens, you are missing out on one of Mother Nature’s most unique and delightful plants.
What many people don’t know is that arugula’s jester personality when raw, is instantly elevated to regal status when cooked. Playing off its Mediterranean heritage, arugula is a fantastic addition to pizza, pasta, and risotto. Typically, the younger leaves are milder, and used in salads, while the more mature, late-season leaves tend to develop a spicy-hot-mustard flavor that can never be mistaken. Arugula pairs beautifully with goat cheese, fruits and berries, oily nuts such as the pinon, and of course prosciutto. (What doesn’t pair well with prosciutto?)
If you’re interested in foregoing the plastic clamshells and saving the planet, Arugula is an easy green to grow at home. Being a reliable cool-weather crop, arugula seeds can be planted three to four weeks before the average last frost in your area, offering an early taste of Spring, and can also be planted in succession until the hottest part of summer. As the weather warms, you’ll find your plant “going to seed”— which is a delightful part of the growing process since you can harvest and eat the beautiful arugula flowers as well.
And here’s a great tip for your abundant harvest— arugula makes wonderful pesto!
Linguine with Spring Arugula and Prosciutto
- 1 lb arugula (4 bunches), washed and torn into medium pieces
- 1 lb linguine
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup shallots, chopped
- 1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
- 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, finely grated
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt (to taste)
- In large stock pot, boil pasta in salted water until al dente (tender, yet firm). Reserve 1 to 2 cups of the cooking liquid and drain the pasta in a colander.
- In large pan or Dutch oven, sauté the shallots and garlic on medium heat in a 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- When shallots and garlic are slightly caramelized, add in the cooked pasta along with the prosciutto, arugula, and lemon zest. Toss gently and add in some of the reserved pasta water to obtain a slightly brothy, but not soupy, dish.
- Salt to taste.
- Drizzle oil over pasta, and serve with fresh Parmesan.