All pestos are not created equal. For many Americans, the term brings to mind some version of pesto Genovese, with its copious basil, cheese and pine nuts traditionally mashed together with a mortar and pestle. But the word derives merely from the Italian for “to pound or crush,” which opens up possibilities for numerous flavor combinations.
We were inspired by one version of pesto we saw in “Autentico” by Rolando Beramendi. This Tuscan cook combines bitter herbs and greens with garlic and marinated artichoke hearts into a vegan sauce that pairs beautifully with chunky pasta shapes such as fusilli.
For this recipe from our book “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor, we rely on arugula for a backdrop of pepperiness, tempered by grassy parsley. We preferred neutral oil blended into the sauce because its flavor doesn’t compete with the other ingredients, but we drizzle on extravirgin olive oil just before serving. Either canned or marinated artichoke hearts work well.
Be careful to start pulsing the ingredients slowly in the food processor or blender. Otherwise you’ll overwork the herbs and the heat will diminish their flavor.
Start to finish: 20 minutes Servings: 4 to 6 3 cups lightly packed baby arugula or baby watercress 1½ cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley 4 scallions, roughly chopped 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram or fresh oregano 2 marinated artichoke hearts, quartered, plus chopped marinated artichoke hearts to serve 6 tablespoons neutral oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper 1 pound fusilli or cavatappi or gemelli pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve In a blender or food processor, combine the arugula, parsley, scallions, marjoram, artichokes, neutral oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Puree until smooth; transfer to a large bowl. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain. Add the pasta and 1/4 cup cooking water to the pesto; toss, adding more cooking water to thin. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with chopped artichokes and drizzled with olive oil.
Optional garnishes: toasted sliced almonds or shaved pecorino Romano cheese or lemon wedges or toasted breadcrumbs.