Pasta with Shrimp and Arugula-Hazelnut Pesto

Comfort food….Italian style.  I simply love the bite of arugula and coupled with the sweet brininess of the shrimp is heavenly.  Pesto should be its very own food group (along with french fries :o) and require at least 2 servings a day. And it is so flexible – basil, parsley, arugula, spinach…they all work. I love this mix of arugula and hazelnuts which imparts a subtle yummy difference in the flavor from the mainstream basil and pignoli version.  Some cooks prefer to quickly parboil the arugula in boiling water for 15 seconds as it keeps its bright green color better (feel free to do so!) but I think it dampens the bite of the arugula a tad. Either way, it is a jostle of smooth creamy goodness which works on everything from pasta to chicken.  This is one of the few dishes where cheese is served with fish – (typically a huge no-no in Italian culinary culture -wisdom being that the parmesan will overpower the delicate balance of the shellfish).  In this recipe, it just enhances the flavor – pass the parmesan and enjoy!

Pasta with Shrimp and Arugula Pesto 


For the pesto:

1/2 cup of hazelnuts, toasted and cooled

6 cloves of garlic

6 tightly packed cups of arugula

1/2 cup of basil

1/2 cup of parmesan

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 to 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

For the pasta:

1 pound of long pasta such as spaghetti or fettucini

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/2 cup of dry white wine


1 food processor (or blender),  1 large saute or grill pan, 1 large pot to cook the pasta


  1. Prepare the pesto: In a food processor or blender, pulse the garlic and hazelnuts together until chopped.  Add the arugula, basil, and parmesan. Pulse until combined.  Add the lemon juice and pulse. With the food processor running, slowing add in the olive oil and blend until completely combined.  You may need to scrape down the sides in between these steps to incorporate all ingredients.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste.  You want the pesto to be thick but pourable.  This can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed. Be sure to bring to room temperature prior to using.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions – be sure to cook the pasta ‘al dente’. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.  Place the pasta back in the same pot and add the pesto. Stir to combine.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the shrimp.   In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until slightly pink – about 3 minutes. Add the wine. Turn up the heat to medium high and cook until the shrimp are cooked through and wine is reduced…about another 3 minutes.
  5. Add the shrimp to the pasta and stir to combine. Add in desired amount of pasta water to smooth the consistency and coat pasta.  Remember that the pasta will continue to absorb the pasta water as it sits so I always add a tad more than I think is perfect. Adjust seasonings.
  6. Serve immediately with plenty of fresh parmesan and red pepper. Enjoy!

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