5-Minute Arugula Parmesan Salad
A vibrant, peppery arugula Parmesan salad with pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon proves that simple is best. This goes with everything and is hands-down the easiest salad you’ll ever make!
Planning out main courses is pretty straightforward, or at least common practice. But rounding out the menu with sides and salads? Now that can be a downright pain.
In fact, sometimes you might even neglect to plan for a side until the last minute.
No? Just me? If you insist. 🙂
This arugula Parmesan salad is the ultimate pinch-hitter. You’ll hardly believe that something so simple can be so flavorful, and find yourself reaching for it time and again.
Why you’ll love it
- Quick and easy: You can throw it together in less than five minutes, and don’t even need to mix a dressing in a separate jar or bowl.
- Versatile: It magically pairs well with a huge variety of main dishes.
- Healthy: Tasty, fresh greens — no filler, nothing processed!
- Easy to fall back on: Most of the components are pantry staples, and the two fresh items — arugula and lemon — keep for a long time. You can keep everything you need on hand more or less all the time. It’s the perfect “back pocket” salad.
- Arugula: Leafy greens with a subtle peppery taste. Arugula is known as rocket in Europe; the individual leaves do resemble rockets a bit, at least if you enlist your imagination. It’s high in fiber, folate, and antioxidants yet tends to be under-appreciated! Well-packed, thoroughly washed and dried arugula stays fresh and crisp in the fridge longer than many other lettuce varieties — usually a week or more for me.
- Parmesan: Use shaved, grated, shredded, whatever you have – it’s the salty, tangy flavor you’re after.
- Pine nuts: May seem pricey, but only a few add amazing flavor and they last forever in the pantry. If your pine nuts aren’t already toasted, warm them in a skillet for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Watch carefully so they don’t blacken and burn.
- Olive oil and lemon juice: Just a touch of each — you can always add more but can’t take away!
- Black and/or red pepper: A few turns of fresh-ground black pepper draw out the arugula’s flavor. And if you enjoy a little kick, sprinkle on a small pinch of red pepper flakes, too.
Tips and tricks
Memory serves: Once you’ve made this a few times, you won’t need to refer to the recipe at all. It’s that simple! And being able to do this from memory is a great feeling when you’re rushing to get dinner on the table.
Work ahead: Try mixing the olive oil and lemon juice in the bottom of your salad bowl, softly laying the arugula on top, and finishing with the Parmesan, pine nuts, and pepper. Place the salad in the fridge or on the table to get it out of the way; toss together with tongs when you sit down to eat. Everything is fresh!
- Fall flavors: Add apples or roasted squash, swap pine nuts for walnuts.
- Mediterranean twist: Add sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives, swap Parmesan for Feta.
- Veggie crush: Add halved cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, or diced cucumber for a garden salad feel. Sprinkle on a pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning.
Arugula Parmesan Pine Nut Salad
- 3-4 handfuls fresh baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons freshly-grated or shaved Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts toasted
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- Gently toast the pine nuts over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, if not already toasted.
- Add arugula and Parmesan to a large salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with black pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the pine nuts and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
- Toasting the pine nuts is optional but adds amazing flavor. You can buy them pre-toasted to save time!
- I make this at least once a week and literally never measure our the ingredients. Once you make it a couple times you’ll do it from memory and feel, too! Just remember, go light on the olive oil and lemon juice especially at first — you can always add more but you can’t take away. but the proportions above give you an idea to get started.