Kale Walnut Pesto Pasta

Sometimes I wonder if I would have liked kale when I was a kid. My mom made us spinach regularly and Swiss Chard on occasions but never kale. If I had kale chips, I'd have to assume I'd be into them. I have always been a sucker for crunchy things and I don't think my kid palette would have discriminated. But then again I think I might have been horrified with the kale chip-in- teeth- situation. Oh god, imagine if that happened in high school! If I loved them as much as I do now, I'd be Tracy-- that chick with the swamp teeth! I'd be standing alone at the school dance, the Cranberries would be playing and I'd be picking at my teeth waiting for some boy to ask me to dance. Gross...

I digress...So kale AS pesto. Sounds pretty neat huh? It is. With a little bit of lemon it's bright green & lovely. With some toasted walnuts it's smokey and nutty. With some olive oil and Parmesan cheese, it's smooth and creamy. I fantasize about dipping some of my Killer Garlic Bread in some. I bet it would be an amazing sauce/base for a pizza... fantastic on a baked potato or in a bruschetta concoction. Don't feel like going through the whole process of making pesto? Try this Pasta with Braised Kale recipe instead. But really, come on! It's super easy.

And we're off!

Gather your ingredients to make the pesto!

Grate the Parmesan & set aside. Use the good stuff. It makes a difference.

Put the kale leaves in a large pot of boiling water for 4-5 mins. You will cook the pasta in this same water.

Drain the kale & quickly rinse with cold water.

Pat the leaves dry with a towel.

In a food processor, add the cheese, toasted walnuts, ONE clove of garlic & kale.

I added two and paid the price. After a pack of gum and 8 tooth-brushing sessions later I was fine.

Back to the pesto...Whirl it in the food processor for a bit.

Add a squeeze of fresh lemon. Hey! I grew that lemon!

kalepestopasta (7)

And slowly add your olive oil in. MIX MIX MIX.

Ahhhhhhhhh alchemy! Your noodles should be cooking at this point.

In a large bowl, add the pesto and pour your hot noodles on top. STIR!

Uh huh. That's what I'm talkin' bout. Add a little pasta water if it's too thick.

I sprinkled a few reserved walnuts in the mix. Of course add some grated Parm....

kale pesto pasta

Soo good when it hits your lips.

Kale Walnut Pesto Pasta

(recipe slightly adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine)

Serves 4

  • 1/2 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (I didn't chop mine)
  • 1 pound pasta (I used Rotelli)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot of salted water, cook the kale until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to a colander and rinse with cold water. Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, squeeze the kale to remove the excess water. In a food processor, combine the kale, walnuts, garlic and parmesan until almost smooth; season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. With the machine running, add the olive oil.

Add the pesto to the pasta, along with enough pasta cooking water to loosen the pesto as necessary. Serve sprinkled with more parmesan and serve with extra toasted walnuts.

***Shutterbean Notes***

-You might wanna add a little bit of fresh lemon juice to perk up your leftovers!

-You could eat it cold as a pasta salad with some tomatoes & feta cheese sprinkled in!

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  • Autumn
    January 28, 2011

    This looks amazing! I eat kale a few times a week anyway, so this will definitely be in the mix soon!

  • Okay, so I guess I really need to join the Kale craze that's been happening recently since I'm apparently missing out. Step 1 Kale chips, step 2 Kale pesto.

  • January 29, 2011

    I love pesto so much. When I went to Italy this summer the only thing I brought back was jars upon jars of homemade Italian pesto from a little village! Great idea using kale.

  • January 29, 2011

    I've been interested in doing a non-basil pesto for some time now, especially since our potted basil is long dead for the season. We do buy kale once in a while, so this is a possibility, but what we get even more are collards, mustard greens and turnip greens. Do you think those greens would be too assertively flavored for a pesto, or would it play well with the other ingredients then creating a great new taste of its own?



  • January 29, 2011

    This looks so yummy! I've been wanting to try out kale, and this sounds like a great way to do it.

  • January 29, 2011

    such a good idea! my fave pesto recipes use cilantro and arugula, respectively.

  • January 29, 2011

    Fabulous. Bookmarked and going on my dinner table asap.

  • January 31, 2011

    Pesto pasta is one of life's simplest and greatest pleasures - I used to have it loads during my uni days. I like the kale twist ?

  • February 2, 2011

    i was seriously just thinking of making kale pesto tonight, to dollop on some baked potato soup with bacon of course. you're a genius!

  • February 2, 2011

    I recently discovered the wonders of kale pesto (http://missiondelectable.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/kale-potato-gratin-with-kale-pesto/). It's simply delicious. And it doesn't hurt that's its ridiculously good for you. I'll have to try it on some pasta next!

    (Lovely blog, by the way!)

  • February 2, 2011

    Yum! I've made a pesto-ish sauce with kale and spinach and know I'd love this. Swamp teeth!

  • February 3, 2011

    Ohhh, I like where you went with this! I didn't discover kale until much later in life but I love it (except I do think kale chips are kinda weird). In any case - definitely need to make this soon!

  • Yum! I love kale pesto. This looks delicious.

  • February 21, 2011

    This sounds amazing! Cannot wait to try. I absolutely love kale. And i think this recipe could easily be made vegan if one just substitutes nutritional yeast for the parma.

  • February 24, 2011

    Hello! Since going vegetarian full-time I have been looking for recipes that include kale. This looks amazing! I was just going to ask if anyone had any vegan alternate ideas for the Parmesan. I'm trying yo go full-on vegan - has anybody tried it with nutritional yeast and if so, how much did you add? Thank you! :)

  • March 2, 2011

    We never had kale growing up, but I know that I would have hated it back then. I just recently 'discovered' Tuscan kale and I love it. I will have to try making this in the near future.

  • Smitha
    April 23, 2011

    our fussy daughter (11 months old) absolutely loved this dish!! I made it with fettucine... she cleaned up her plate and tray and not an ounce on the floor!! So, a complete success and will be making it again. the leftover salad idea sounds great too! We didn't have any leftovers! ;)

    • April 23, 2011

      this makes me SOOOOOOOOOOO happy!!! I know how hard it can be getting greens in! High five!

  • May 19, 2011

    I made this tonight and it is FANTASTIC! I love it so much. What a perfect blend of my favorite flavors... parmesan, walnuts, PASTA, and a vitamin boost with the kale. 10 points!

  • May 27, 2012

    I made this for dinner last night with your parmesan roasted green beans and it was SO delicious! Everyday absolutely loved it.

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