Published On: Sun, May 26th, 2024

Jamie Oliver’s lemony arugula pasta is a refreshing 20-minute meal

Jamie Oliver’s lemony arugula pasta is a refreshing 20-minute meal
Jamie Oliver’s lemony arugula pasta is a refreshing 20-minute meal

Arugula must be the ultimate palate cleanser. With its peppery bite, the green — especially when dressed simply in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper — is my absolute favorite accompaniment to pizza or pasta, because it cuts through that carby and sometimes-cheesy richness we all love. It gives your taste buds a contrasting flavor, a little shock to the system that helps them head back to the main course for another round, as bracing as an ice plunge in between sauna sessions.

This pasta dish, which blends arugula with pistachios and parmesan into something of a smooth pesto, integrates the two extremes. It’s so hearty and yet somehow simultaneously refreshing: If we stick with that sauna metaphor, it’s akin to periodically pouring a bucket of cold water on your head without even standing up from the bench.

Get the recipe: Farfalle With Lemony Arugula and Pistachio Sauce

It comes from Jamie Oliver’s most recent book, “5 Ingredients Mediterranean,” in which he challenges himself once again to coax interesting flavors and textures from a limited list of components. (If you’re counting in this recipe and coming up a little over, it’s because he’s not including in the total such staples as olive oil, salt and pepper.) The last time he did this, with 2019’s “5 Ingredients,” I needed to do a little lentil tweaking to get the right results with the recipe I tried, but once I did I appreciated the ease and speed with which dinner came together. This time, the affair was smooth sailing, start to finish.

I recently noticed on Oliver’s social media that he’s celebrating a quarter-century since he first came onto the food scene as “The Naked Chef.” And what a quarter-century it’s been: He and his formidable team have written more than two dozen cookbooks, an output matched by few others. He’s been involved in the push for healthy school lunches (not without controversy), he founded (and later closed) a charitable London restaurant, Fifteen, aimed at helping rehabilitate troubled young people, and he has mentored such figures as Anna Jones, who became a best-selling cookbook author in her own right.

I’ve had the pleasure on multiple occasions of sitting down with Oliver for an interview. I also once got the chance to see him in action in front of a videographer, and was wowed by his sharp mind, articulate nature, dizzying energy level — and his approach to the visual details. He was flying almost solo, in (and outside) a rental kitchen not his own. His suggestions to the videographer included positions, angles and such technicalities as the camera’s settings, and at one point he even grabbed the camera to demonstrate. Talk about hands-on. If I had any doubts about just how he had become so widely watched on TV and social media, they evaporated.

As working — and hands-on — parents know, family life can be just as busy as work, if not more so. Oliver and his wife, Juliette (“Jools”), have five children, which is no doubt part of the reason that Jools was the impetus behind Oliver’s return to the “5 Ingredients” formula. “She told me to stop thinking about anything else,” he writes. As she put it, “It’s where people are at, when our lives are so incredibly busy — it’s the book all the parents at school talk about.”

This time around, Oliver is using his travels around the Mediterranean as inspiration, and he strips both classic and newfangled recipes down to the studs, rebuilding them with the use of such smart flavor bombs as harissa, tapenade, sumac and sausage. (The fewer the ingredients, after all, the more pressure there is on each one of them.) The book isn’t vegetarian, but more than 50 recipes in it qualify, especially if you make sure to buy a parmesan (such as BelGioioso) that uses vegetarian rennet.

For the farfalle I tested, Oliver cites as his inspiration the “vivid and packed full of flavor” Sicilian pasta sauces that use pistachios and herbs and are finished with lemon. It’s yet another reminder of why pasta is the weeknight cook’s MVP. While the farfalle cooks, you puree the remaining ingredients in a blender, saving some for garnish. And when the pasta is ready, you toss the two together while the farfalle is still hot, loosening the sauce as needed with another hero ingredient: the starchy cooking water.

Honestly, the only misgivings I experienced had to do with the palate-refreshing aspect I mentioned at the beginning. I found little reason to take a break from eating bite after bite, until it was too late.

Get the recipe: Farfalle With Lemony Arugula and Pistachio Sauce

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