Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries Recipe

A peppery arugula pesto tossed with a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts in the pesto, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries

I meant to post this weeks ago, but my notes were somehow buried in a blizzard of files on my desktop. Better late than never, right? Here goes. I had a good-sized bag of arugula left-over from my nephew Jack's first birthday party and needed to use it up. I decided to give the bulk of it a whirl in the food processor and turn it into an arugula pesto of sorts. Not very creative, I'll admit, but the resulting puree was great - electric-green with a peppery kick. It's just the sort of thing to slather on a sandwich, dollop over hot pasta, or you can do what I did, and work it through a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

At $1 per pound the Massa Organics wheat berries were the deal of the year for me. I usually hit the Massa stand for their brown rice (which they are famous for) or their almond butter - but couldn't resist the wheat berries when I came across them. These wheat berries have a beautiful, barely-noticeable red blush when cooked, and they plump into perfect oblong orbs that look like they might pop between your molars.

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Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries Recipe

While this is a great salad, I wanted to make more of a meal out of it so I threw in some seitan. Wayne brings home packets of Sweet Earth brand seitan, and I like it. I also noted that cubes of cooked potatoes would be great here.

3 cups cooked wheat berries*
3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 cup pine nuts (or sliced almonds), toasted (divided)
3 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 big pinches salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup black Kalamata olives, chopped
4 - 6 ounces seitan, (optional), chopped and pan-fried into crispy bits in a bit of oil
a bit of shaved Parmesan as garnish

Place the wheat berries in a large mixing bowl and set them aside so they can come up to room temperature if you've had them in the refrigerator.

In the meantime, make the arugula pesto by combining the garlic, 1/2 cup of the pine nuts, most of the arugula, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse a few times, and then begin to drizzle the olive oil into the mixture while continuing to pulse until the pesto is smooth. Taste, and adjust if needed with more salt or lemon juice.

Pour about half of the pesto over the wheat berries, add the seitan if you are using it, the reserved arugula, and about 1/4-1/2 cup of hot water (or reserved water from cooking the wheat berries). Toss until everything is well-coated. Add more pesto a bit at a time until the wheat berries are dressed to your liking - I actually go a bit on the heavy side with this particular combination.

Arrange on a platter and top with the olives, remaining pine nuts, and a bit of shaved Parmesan.

*To cook wheat berries: Combine 2 cups wheat berries, 6 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy (and a few of the berries split open), about an hour or so. The berries will stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they're done is to taste a few. Drain and set aside.

Serves 6 as a side, less as a main.

Prep time: 15 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I have to try this. I've never had wheat berries before. In fact I have yet to try farro yet either. I need to branch out from just rice & pasta.

I've been wanting to try wheat berries for the longest time. This recipe has inspired me! Thanks for sharing. I stumbled upon your site a few weeks ago and have to check in daily to see what's cooking!

Heidi, I just wanted to let you know i love your site...Thanks Duncan Santa Barbara...its Fiesta time


This looks terrific! I was just in Umbria for two weeks and had Arugula Pesto on pasta filled with almond & pear. It was amazing. It was a place called Nonna Gelsa in Niccone & it's a member of the slow food network. I love your site.


You always have the best photos on your posts on this website. I can't believe how awesome that photo of the Arugula Pesto Wheat Berries recipe looks. I wish my presentation was as good as yours when I cook for friends.

Wow $1 a pound! What an amazing deal. This meal looks amazing and really delicious. I love how fresh it looks:)

OK, "first birthday" and "arugula" don't usually go together, but good for you for using up the stuff in your fridge and good for us that you whipped up what looks like a delicious recipe! It's on my list for dinner next week. Thanks!

I made a dish last night based off this recipe. Black beans and quinoa took the place of wheat berry's and seitan, almonds instead of pine nuts. My pesto turned out delish- with a 1/4 teaspoon on sesame oil for a super nutty taste. I added some whole sprouts and lots of lemon. it was wonderful, can't wait for the leftovers for lunch.


With all the wet, cool weather on the east coast this summer... I have a bumper crop of arugula. This recipe looks fantastic, and will be put to good use this weekend. Its easy for a gardener to fall in love with 101 cookbooks. Thank you so much, as always. Michaela - The Gardener's Eden

Thanks for the great insight on wheat berries. I've always wanted to cook with them, but never found a recipe that completely attracted me. I've been reading your blog for a few years now and have linked you as a favorite blog on my new site! Hope you come check it out.

I'm ashamed to say I have never tried wheatberries, but I am certainly encouraged to do so now with this recipe. The arugula pesto sounds like a wonderful combination of flavors, and I look forward to trying it myself.

Great recipe! We just ordered some organic rice and wheatberries from Massa organics, and we look forward to cooking them in our solar oven.

This looks so great, as usual. Interestingly, I just told my sister-in-law to get more wheat berries into her diet. They are amazingly high in selenium, a mineral that helps convert Thyroxin (T-4, thyroid hormone) to the active T3. Perfect timing.

Oh, Heidi! This is JUST what I've been meaning to do w/ the surplus of arugula in my garden - thanks for reminding me!


Heidi, do you ever soak your grains overnight before cooking? I find soaking in water with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice makes them a bit fluffier and cooks more quickly. Thanks for another great recipe to try!

Wow! I love the idea of arugula pesto--especially in a grain salad! Yum! thanks!

What a beautiful salad. I have been obsessed with arugula lately and this pesto looks like the perfect fix.

I love arugula and would be anxious to try this but have no idea where to find wheat berries! Is this a health food store staple? Can you mention a chain grocery that stocks it and in what department? Thanks!


I am having a hard time finding out if a wheat berry is a fancy name for a whole wheat kernel. Does anyone know? Thanks!


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