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cod with arugula-basil pesto

I like the ease of a food processor to make pesto, but many people swear by a mortar and pestle. If you have time, you can also use only a sharp knife, but be prepared to be very patient with the process. (Instructions included in link on blog.) Extra pesto? Freeze it for up to 6 months and bring it out mid-January to slather over stovetop grilled sliced potatoes or gnocchi and be a heroine. Pesto can also be purchased if you’re not feeling all chef-fy, but your own will taste better whether it’s made by hand or machine or a combination. Many greens or herbs, alone, or combined can be used for pesto including kale, spinach, parsley, etc.


Arugula-Basil Pesto

  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup arugula leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced, plus 4 extra sprigs for garnish at serving time
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup a little over 3 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (can sub with pecorino Romano or other hard, grateable cheese)
  • Good pinch EACH: kosher salt and fresh ground pepper


  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Pinch ground cayenne
  • 4 6- ounce cod fillets—can sub other mild white fish such as tilapia, grouper, halibut, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ fresh lemon


  • PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 150 degrees F and place 4 dinner plates on middle rack for warming.
  • MAKE THE PESTO: Pour half of the oil, the arugula, basil, garlic, and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade. Pulse until well-blended and thick. Drizzle in the remainder of the oil, pulsing until totally blended. Sprinkle in a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Taste and re-season, adding a little more garlic, cheese, salt, pepper as needed. Set aside. (Better if made the same day, but can be made a day ahead, poured into a jar, covered with a layer of olive oil, sealed tightly, and stored in the fridge.)
  • COOK THE COD: Pat the fish dry with paper or cloth towel. Sprinkle with salt and peppers on both sides, patting in spices. Heat a large, deep heavy skillet (I like a 12-inch non-stick sauté pan.) over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Pour in the oil, swirl to cover the bottom of the pan, and let heat another minute or so. Carefully add the seasoned fillets and cook on one side until golden brown. Turn and cook the other side until the fish is opaque and flaky—a total of 8-10 minutes.
  • SERVING: Place cod on warm plates, squeeze a little lemon over them, and spoon the reserved pesto over each fillet. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.


I like fish on top of grains, and in this case, used some cooked, leftover quinoa I warmed in the microwave. If you’ve never cooked quinoa, a high-protein popular grain, it cooks just about like rice: a 2-1 water to grain ratio (season with a splash of olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper), simmered for 15-20 minutes. A green salad or steamed green vegetable rounds out this meal nicely.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2020. All rights reserved