Arugula Pesto, Spicy Pork, and Spinach Pockets

October  8, 2012
1 Ratings
  • Serves about 6
Author Notes

These pockets marry arugula pesto, spicy pork, spinach, and goat cheese together in a neat little package, which is easy to eat with one hand while holding a drink in the other. They are a bit sweet, a bit spicy. I think the textures balance well. The pork, the spinach, and the pesto can all be prepared a few hours ahead, and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to put the pockets together. Alternatively, you can make the parcels ahead and freeze them; in this case, add a couple extra minutes to the cooking time. —Cristina Sciarra

Test Kitchen Notes

This is finger food at its best! So many flavors meld together inside a flaky puff pastry shell that can be held in your hand -- you can also try making them larger and rectangular for kickin' homemade hot pockets. There's spicy meat, bright and tangy pesto, citrusy spinach, onions, garlic, and golden raisins all rolled up in one satisfying appetizer. They're complex tasting, but not complex to make. Sure to please all ages! —Rachel O.

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic, divided
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 5 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1 package good quality frozen puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. To make the pork: Finely dice 3 cloves of the garlic. Slice up the onion crosswise, as thinly as possible.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a wide pan, and let it heat for a minute over medium heat. Add the onion, and let it sweat for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté another minute.
  3. Add the golden raisins to the pan, and stir to coat them in the garlic/onion mixture. Cook for a few minutes, until they begin to plump.
  4. Add the ground pork. (Note: Hopefully your pan is wide enough so that it isn't too packed. Otherwise, you can cook in batches; you want the pork to brown, not steam.) Let the pork brown a little in parts, before you stir it around. Cook until the pork is no longer pink.
  5. Add the harissa, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, and a little crack of black pepper. Stir to combine. (You can always adjust the harissa and salt based on your preferences.) Remove the pork from the heat and set it aside.
  6. Make the spinach: Empty the spinach into a pot. Add a few tablespoons of water, put the lid on the pot, and set the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes, or until it's wilty. Add the cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. (If the spinach is very wet, drain it.)
  7. Make the pesto: Roast the garlic cloves. (I rub the cloves in a little bit of olive oil, wrap them in aluminum foil, and toss them into a 350° F oven for about 20 minutes. However, if you are cooking something else in the oven the day of or night before, use the heat of that oven to roast the cloves.) Peel the cloves, and let them cool.
  8. Toast the hazelnuts. (You can do this as you roast the garlic, if you like. I keep the hazelnuts in a 350° F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, shaking them around in the pan once or twice during cooking. Remove them from the oven when they are light brown in spots, and smell toasty.) Wait for them to cool.
  9. I use a microplane grater to shred the Pecorino. I grate enough to fill 1/2 cup, not at all packed. However, if you use a larger-holed cheese grater, I might stop somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup.
  10. Move the (cooled) hazelnuts to a food processor. Pulse for about 1 minute, or until the hazelnuts are reduced to dust.
  11. Add the arugula, the garlic, the Pecorino, the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a healthy crack of black pepper to the food processor. Blend for about a minute, slowly adding the olive oil as it whirs. Stop when you achieve a 'creamy' texture.
  12. Make the parcels: Remove the puff pastry from the freezer about 1 hour before you'd like to use it. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Let a baking sheet get hot in the preheating oven.
  13. Use a cookie cutter to make circles in the puff pasty, about 3 inches in diameter. Dot a small portion each of pesto, spinach, ground pork, and goat cheese into the center of each circle. Brush a little water onto the edge of half of each circle, and then bring the other half to it to form half-circle parcels. Use a fork to seal the halves. Make an egg wash with the yolk and a bit of water; brush the top of each parcel with the wash.
  14. Take the baking sheet out of the oven -- it should be hot. Move the parcels to the baking sheet, being careful not to burn yourself in the process. Cut 2 to 3 slits into each parcel, so steam can escape.
  15. Bake the parcels for about 10 to 13 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Let them rest for a few minutes before enjoying.
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    Cristina Sciarra
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at

3 Reviews

timmytwinkle March 15, 2015
What kind of pork do you buy? Spicy italian? And, you mention goat cheese in the beginning - is there meant to be goat cheese in addition to the pecorino? The recipe looks wonderful!
Rachel O. December 19, 2013
These are great!!! So glad I got the chance to test these!
Cristina S. December 20, 2013
Thanks for testing them, Rachel!