Arugula (Eruca sativa, also known as Eruca vesicaria) is generally considered a peppy—and peppery—salad green. It vaguely resembles dandelion greens, but it’s actually a member of the Brassica family of vegetables. This family includes familiar superfood vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
Also known as rocket salad, garden rocket, or simply rocket, in much of Europe, arugula is currently a trendy leafy green that’s relatively new to many Americans. Evidence suggests few Americans had ever heard of arugula before it was introduced to readers of the New York Times in the mid-20th century.
Native to the Mediterranean region, this annual plant has been gaining popularity here, where it turns up in more adventurous salad blends in the grocery store, or in salads and other dishes served at upscale restaurants. Once believed to be an aphrodisiac, arugula is often used as a final topping for pizza by Italian chefs. It’s added after baking is complete, to avoid wilting.
Relative to its calorie content, arugula is highly nutrient dense. At just 4 calories per cup, arugula is an excellent addition to any weight-loss plan. Despite its negligible calories, arugula supplies substantial amounts of nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A; folate, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Like other dark green leafy vegetables, arugula is also a good source of nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoid pigment compounds linked to reduced risks of diseases that affect the eyes, such as age-related macular degeneration.
Here are some recipe suggestions to get you started on the arugula bandwagon:
Classic Tomato Sauce with Arugula
• 1 28-ounce can imported San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes
• 1 white (preferred) or yellow onion, peeled and slice in half
• 5-6 Tbsp European-style (higher fat content) butter
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2-1 c. chopped arugula
• cooked pasta
• Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• Melt butter in medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Add tomatoes and onion.
• Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered; 30 minutes.
• Remove onion and crush tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with fresh, rinsed, chopped arugula leaves. Serve over freshly cooked pasta of your choice, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side.
Pasta with Lemon and Arugula
• 1 lb. tubular pasta, such as Penne Rigate, or Rigatoni
• 3-4 c. arugula
• 1 Tbsp lemon zest
• 1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or Pecorina
• Crushed red pepper (optional)
• Cook pasta according to directions.
• In ample serving bowl, combine arugula, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.
• Drain cooked pasta and immediately add to bowl, tossing to mix ingredients.
• Season to taste with salt, pepper and 1/2 of cheese.
• Serve remaining cheese on the side. Serve crushed red pepper on the side.