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Pesto gets a makeover in this kale pesto recipe! Your traditional pesto made with kale and combined for a delicious dinner of kale pesto pasta.

As our garden grows this, kale pesto pasta recipe has become a classic around here. Our kale grows super well and VERY quickly so I’m often looking for ways to use it up. Our kale tends to grow faster than our basil so I often find myself making kale pesto rather than traditional basil pesto as the season gets started. Towards the end of the season I love whipping up batches of traditional basil pesto to freeze through the winter (and the kale gets used in soup prep for the winter) but as the season is gearing up I am all about the kale pesto pasta.

While this kale pesto recipe requires a few extra steps than using basil, I promise you that it is worth it! It’s so delicious and you get an extra serving of veggies. I also really like making this for potlucks and summer BBQs because it’s always a crowd favorite. With that, here’s my recipe for pesto with kale.

Can you make Pesto with Kale?

Yes – you can make pesto with kale. In fact, it’s a great substitution for traditional basil pesto. Kale is technically in the brassica family (so not a leafy green) but it is an incredible source of vitamins A, K and C. In fact, one cup of cooked kale contains 88% of your daily vitamin C! It’s also a great source of calcium and potassium too.

You will need to cook your kale for this recipe to work but you’re already boiling water for pasta so cooking the kale in boiling water doesn’t add a whole lot of time and effort. I’d highly recommend trying kale pesto.

Ingredients to Make Kale Pesto

  • Lacinato Kale – also called tuscan kale. Be sure to remove the thick stems.
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves – I recommend getting the fresh kind and not the pre-minced kind.
  • Parmesan cheese– you can buy pre-grated or grate yourself
  • Pine nuts – walnuts are a great (and cheaper!) alternative
  • Short pasta – fusilli, penne or farfalle work great
  • Salt and pepper – add to taste and to salt cooking water

You will also need either a high-speed blender or a food processor to make the kale pesto.

How to Make Kale Pesto

STEP 1: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add kale to boiling water and cook until kale has all wilted – about 3 minutes. Stir often to ensure all kale is submerged. Use tongs to remove kale from water and place directly into a blender or food processor.

STEP 2: In a small pan heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat. Let garlic mixture cool slightly then add to kale in blender or food processor.

STEP 3: Add parmesan, pine nuts (or walnuts), a splash of pasta water and salt and pepper to blender or food processor and blend until smooth or desired texture is reached. If sauce is too thick add in some more of the reserved water.

STEP 4: Cook pasta to package instructions and top with pesto kale sauce to coat completely.

Can You Freeze Kale Pesto?

Absolutely! Like traditional basil pesto you can freeze kale pesto as well. Here’s how I like to do it.

Make your kale pesto as instructed. Rather than adding it to your pasta, scoop into a silicone tray or ice cube tray (I prefer silicone because they’re easier to pop out). Place tray in the freezer for at least 4 hours or until completely frozen.

Once frozen, remove from tray and place in a freezer-safe container or ziploc bag and seal well. Your kale pesto will keep for up to the 6 months in the freezer. Just remove several hours before using to thaw.

More Pasta Recipes

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Kale Pesto Pasta

Pesto gets a makeover in this kale pesto recipe! Your traditional pesto made with kale and combined for a delicious dinner of kale pesto pasta.

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • 1 head of lacinato kale (also called tuscan kale), destemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb short pasta (fusilli, penne or farfalle work great)

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add kale to boiling water and cook until kale has all wilted – about 3 minutes. Stir often to ensure all kale is submerged.
  3. Use tongs to remove kale from water and place directly into a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your pasta to the kale water and cook according to package instructions.
  5. When pasta is done cooking remove a half a cup of water from the pasta water and set aside.
  6. Strain and set pasta aside.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small pan heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat.
  8. Let garlic mixture cool slightly then add to kale in blender or food processor.
  9. Add parmesan, pine nuts (or walnuts), a splash of pasta water and salt and pepper to blender or food processor and blend until smooth or desired texture is reached. If sauce is too thick add in some more of the reserved pasta water.
  10. Add your pasta back to pot and top with pesto kale sauce to coat completely.
  11. Serve immediately or keep in fridge for up to 3 days. See note above for freezing kale pesto.

Keywords: kale pesto, kale pesto recipe, kale pesto pasta



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