It’s fair to be a little cautious at first with arugula, which can be a little too peppery on its own. But once you try a bowlful with a lemon vinaigrette, it will be love at first taste. The citrusy tang balances the bitter arugula, and the bold, smooth Parmesan makes it absolutely perfect.
This has become our go-to salad for the week, since it goes with pizza, grilled meat and pretty much anything you can cook up. Buy a big tub of baby arugula, make enough dressing, and you can enjoy it with variations the whole week and never get bored.
Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) is a peppery leafy green. Also commonly called rocket, it has been cultivated since Roman times and is even considered an aphrodisiac. It gets stronger with age, so the baby variety is a little milder.
By itself, it’s really not the most enjoyable piece of green you can find. But when you add a few things, it’s pretty amazing. And it’s pretty inexpensive, You can buy a small container for around $3 or a large one that will easily last a week for $5 to $6.
Arugula has a ton of uses. One of my favorites is in a delicious pesto sauce that is great for pizza, pasta or spreading on crusty bread for a sandwich with grilled chicken.
9 Simple Ingredients
- Baby arugula – the slightly bitter and peppery green loves to be paired up with lemon juice.
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – salty and fatty cheese that balances out the acidity and bitterness from the arugula. You can also use Pecorino.
- Lemon juice – I prefer to use Meyer lemon juice for its depth of flavor.
- Lemon zest – Best from organic lemons. Adds an extra depth of citrus flavor from the essential oils.
- Honey – Sweetness to bring down the acid flavors and balance it out. You can also use maple syrup or even sugar.
- Extra-virgin olive oil – Use high-quality olive oil. Taste it before using it as some are stronger than others.
- Dijon mustard – Adds a bite with a little heat along with being an emulsifier to keep the dressing together.
- Shallots – finely chopped and preferably macerated in the lemon juice prior to making the dressing. This will cut down on the bite.
- Salt & pepper – I prefer Diamond Kosher salt and always freshly ground pepper. Go lighter on the pepper for this one as the arugula packs a peppery flavor already.
Get the details and steps on making the perfect lemon vinaigrette.
Add-On Ideas and Inspiration
- Candied pecans
- Goat cheese
- Roasted beets
- Thin-sliced apples or pears
- Cherry tomatoes
- Dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large or 2 small lemons)
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 7 oz. baby arugula
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (coarsely grated)
To make the vinaigrette:
- In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, shallots, honey, salt and pepper to dissolve.
- Slowly whisk in the olive oil to create an emulsion.
- You can also just add all ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds or until the dressing is emulsified and the honey is completely dissolved.
- Gently mix the arugula, Parmesan and the amount of vinaigrette as desired just before serving. Season with freshly ground pepper and top with more Parmesan.
- For the sweetener: Honey, maple syrup or sugar can be used. Use more or less depending on the acidity of the lemon.
- The vinaigrette recipe makes about 1/2 cup of dressing, which is more than needed for the salad. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for the next one within 5 days.
This post was originally published March 7, 2014 and was updated February 17, 2021 to include useful updated information and photos.