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Arugula the Under-appreciated Pizza Topping

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Updated: June 19, 2022

You have probably seen arugula on pizza menus at your favorite pizzeria. It’s becoming a popular pizza topping because of the distinct flavor it adds to pizza.

What is Arugula?

Arugula is a leafy green with a peppery flavor. It’s a part of the brassica family with mustard greens, cabbage, and broccoli. It’s common to see it in Italian and Mediterranean dishes, but you can find it in many cuisines. In Italian, it’s called rucola and French roquette.

arugula on pizza
Photo by Piotr Arnoldes from Pexels

In England, it’s referred to as rocket. Even if you have never heard of it, you have probably tasted it, as it’s common in spring salad mixes.

Arugula dates back to Roman times when it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. It was probably eaten on some of those early flatbread pizzas. While we can’t confirm or deny its aphrodisiac origins, we can attest to the fact that arugula on pizza is delicious.

How to Use Arugula on Pizza

Arugula is an unusual green because of its strong flavor. It is peppery, almost spicy, so it really stands out from other greens. It works well with other intense flavors like salty cheeses, olives, and anchovies. It also goes well with citrus. 

There are a few different ways to use arugula on pizza. The most common way is to add it as a topping. Because it’s a light leafy green, it’s usually added to the pizza post-cooking for a fresh bite.

Another popular way to use arugula is in pesto. You can replace half the basil in pesto and add arugula instead. Then, use this pesto instead of marinara as a base for pizza. Or you can spread it on focaccia or use it as a dip for breadsticks.

arugula on pizza with olives
Photo by Piotr Arnoldes from Pexels

Some chefs prefer to lightly sauté arugula in olive oil with mushrooms and garlic and spread this mixture on a pizza crust. With so many different ways to use arugula, a creative home chef can make this leafy green shine.

Arugula Pizza Combinations

Here are a few ways we love to add arugula on pizza.

  • Arugula and prosciutto
  • Carmelized onions, mushrooms, and arugula
  • Bacon, tomato, and arugula
  • Smoked gouda, sun-dried tomato, black olives, and arugula

Helpful Tips

  • Use baby arugula, it has a lighter texture, and it’s not too spicy.  
  • Toss arugula with a bit of olive oil and salt before adding it to your pizza.
  • Don’t go overboard. Too much arugula can ruin a perfectly good pie.

Where to Buy It

Most grocery stores carry arugula. It’s seasonal, and you will find it in early spring and fall. We like to get ours in the local farmer’s market. It is usually sold in bunches, but grocery stores may have it in bags like spinach.

Once you get it home, don’t wash it until right before using it. Arugula is such a delicate leaf that the moisture from washing can wilt it, and it won’t keep its shape or flavor.

The best way to store it is to wrap it in a paper towel and place it in a plastic Ziploc or silicone reusable bags. Then, just wash what you need to use. It can last in the fridge for around 3-4 days.

However, you decide to use arugula, just know it has tons of health benefits. So if arugula has piqued your interest and your tastebuds, you can enjoy it as much as you want as a part of a healthy diet.

Health Benefits

arugula on pizza with tomatoes
Photo by Mariana Rascão on Unsplash

Like most leafy greens, arugula is a healthy choice to top your pizza. Arugula has antioxidants like Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Vitamin C.

Antioxidants are essential nurtures that fight free radicals. Free radicals damage cells and are responsible for aging and a host of illnesses, including cancer. 

Arugula also:

  • Detoxifies the body
  • Fights diabetes
  • Enhances metabolism

Of course, it’s not a magic potion for aging. But with so many health benefits, why wouldn’t you use it. We love knowing it’s a healthy and tasty addition to our favorite food, the humble pizza.

How to Grow Arugula

growing an arugula garden
Photo by Gigi on Unsplash

If you love arugula and like to garden, you will be happy to know that it’s pretty easy to grow at home, even if you don’t have a green thumb. 

You can find seeds or plant starts in the spring at any garden store. They have shallow roots, so they don’t need a deep pot. They grow pretty fast, and you can actually harvest the leaves in around 40 days after seeding.

Arugula needs well-draining soil and prefers shade to intense sun and heat. Like other greens, you can harvest the outer leaves, and the plant will keep growing. Once the plant bolts or grows a thick root in the center, it’s done.

We have experimented with growing a pizza garden, and arugula has been a great addition to our onions, basil, and oregano. If you live in a small space and growing anything outdoors isn’t an option, you can always try a kitchen herb garden or a hydroponic kitchen herb garden.

Other Ways to Enjoy Arugula

We love arugula on pizza, but there are other easy to enjoy it too. You can mix it with spinach and ricotta for a healthy filling for calzones. Or you can sprinkle it on a simple focaccia, just like the Romans did with early pizzas. 

A Mediterranean salad is an excellent way to showcase arugula. Mix it in a green salad using tomatoes, cucumbers, and artichokes. The perfect way to contrast the spice of arugula is with a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar dressing.

Another favorite way to use arugula is in a cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) pasta with a squeeze of fresh lemon. It lightens up the pasta and is an excellent way to vary the flavor and balance the Pecorino cheese and spicy black pepper. The fresh lemon adds the perfect splash of citrus, giving this classic pasta dish added pizazz. 

There are so many ways to enjoy arugula. If you haven’t tried it, add it to your pizza on your next pizza night for a healthy boost of antioxidants. Pizza doesn’t have to be greasy fast food. You can make a tasty pizza with fresh ingredients that won’t make you worry about your waistline.

Have you tried arugula? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

Share With Other Pizza Lovers:

Our friends over at Pro Pizza Ovens have released a handy dandy “Find Your Dream Pizza Oven” Quiz with just 5-6 questions to answer to choose the absolute best pizza oven for your family to buy for your home or backyard. Try it today!

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DK & Eliana

DK & Eliana

Thanks for reading about our homemade pizza journey! We're a young married couple who started making pizza at home on our wedding night and haven't looked back yet. We've learned over countless attempts of trial and error how to make the perfect pizza sauce, pizza dough, and exactly which pizza accessories to buy for your home setup...

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