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How to Cook Arugula

Arugula is a versatile green that can be easily incorporated into meals using a variety of methods.

How to Cook Arugula

Since B&W Quality Growers offers arugula in conveniently double washed packages, storage & prep is a cinch. There are different variations of cooking arugula and using it meals, whether the leafy green is used in a refreshing salad to enhance its natural flavors or incorporated into an entrée to provide a peppery kick.

Two basic ways you can cook arugula is by steaming it in a saucepan or sautéing it in a skillet, drizzling it with olive oil, and finishing it off with a touch of salt for a flavorful side dish. Other methods include wilting the flavorful leaves in a pot of hot pasta to add texture and a tasty kick, substituting arugula for basil in pesto sauce, and adding it to sandwiches for an extra boost of flavor. Need some ideas? Read up on various arugula side dishes, salads, and sandwiches in our recipe section.

Eat Arugula like an Italian

As big as arugula has become in North America, the true professionals when it comes to cooking arugula dishes are the Italians. Called rucola and rughetta, arugula is commonly found in varied cuisines throughout the country such as Neapolitan, Tuscan, Venetian and Lombardian.

Preferring cool climates, arugula bolts in the summer and flourishes in the fall. For Italians, it seems to supplant basil as a cooking herb, which starts to fade in late summer and then disappears until spring. Fortunately, here in America, we can find young arugula leaves year-round from both local markets and national distribution, like B&W Quality Growers, who have specialized in baby leaves for over 140 years.

Salad Course

Here, we toss arugula into salads to liven up the mix with its nutty, peppery flavor. In Italy, aside from injecting some zing into vegetable dishes, Italians cook arugula like a basil or parsley, using it to provide everything from a subtle background note to a refreshing jolt to the taste buds.

Unlike the robust salads featuring strong cheese and sugar-coated nuts characteristic of menus in states like California, the green salad course in Italy is usually simpler, perhaps with young arugula leaves and a little tender lettuce sparingly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt and pepper. Italians generally value green salads as palate cleansers after the rich main course of meat or poultry, so arugula’s assertive tasting note is treasured for this purpose.

In Italy, arugula also shines as an element in composed salads used for antipasti or separate summer dinner courses, rather than served in addition to a regular meal. Few salads are more sublime than simple boiled potatoes with a light tossing of vinaigrette and, of course, chopped arugula. Likewise, a dusting of shredded arugula complements many room-temperature antipasti such as braised tender artichokes or barely cooked fava beans in oil and lemon juice.

First Course

Although arugula often graces antipasti and salads, it also regularly complements the first course in Italian meals. This can be soup, pasta, or rice, and Italians incorporate arugula into many of these dishes. It’s often stirred into soup at the last minute or added to pasta dishes, especially those with seafood, instead of basil or parsley. Arugula must never be fully cooked, however, as the leaves can turn from lively and flavorful to overly bitter and dull.

Other Dishes

Other dishes in Italian cuisine featuring arugula are the toasted bread appetizer, whether thick bruschetta or delicate crostini, or the large meat courses, where the flavorful leaf is used as a garnish. Clearly, arugula is a dynamic leaf that complements a multitude of dishes, from salads to main courses. Want to eat like an Italian? We recommend trying them all. Find recipes here.

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