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Kale Pesto Pasta

September 27, 2022

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

a bowl of kale pesto on pasta

As our garden grows this kale pesto 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.

The BEST Kale Pesto

As our garden grows I’m always looking for new ways to use up our kale. Our kale tends to be pretty prolific here in Minnesota so kale pretty much gets thrown into everything. It also grows faster than our basil so I oftentimes find myself swapping basil for kale to make kale pesto.

While this kale pesto recipe requires a few extra steps than using basil, I promise you that the flavor 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 the recipe:

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.

kale pesto blended in a blender

Kale Pesto Recipe Ingredients

  • Lacinato Kale – also called tuscan kale. Be sure to remove the thick stems so you’re only using the kale leaves.
  • Olive oil – I like using extra virgin olive oil but use what you have!
  • Garlic cloves – I recommend getting the fresh kind and not the pre-minced kind
  • Parmesan cheese– you can buy pre-grated parmesan or grate yourself. If vegan or dairy-free you can substitute parmesan with nutritional yeast.
  • Pine nuts – walnuts are a great (and cheaper!) alternative if you cannot find pine nuts.
  • Short pasta – fusilli, penne or farfalle work great.
  • Salt and black pepper – add to taste and to salt cooking water

You will also need either a high-speed blender or a food processor to make this recipe.

How to Make Kale Pesto

STEP 1: BLANCH KALE

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.

boiled kale for kale pesto

STEP 2: COOK GARLIC

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.

pan fried garlic in a small pan

STEP 3: BLEND

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.

ingredients for kale pesto in a blender

STEP 4: COOK PASTA

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

bowl of kale pesto on pasta

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 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 pesto will keep for up to the 6 months in the freezer. Just remove several hours before using to thaw.

This recipe will also keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

More Ways to Use Kale Pesto:

I love using this pesto on pasta but there are so many ways in which you can use it! Try it out on:

  • Sandwiches – spread it out onto two slices of bread and top with your favorite sandwich makings
  • Pizza – keep it simple with kale pesto and cheese or add your favorite toppings
  • Soup – I love adding a scoop of this to my soups. This Tuscan Soup pairs well!
  • Eggs – scramble right in or dollop on top!
  • Bean Salad – combine your favorite bean with this kale pesto for a delicious bean salad

More Pasta Recipes

Print

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

Ingredients

Scale
  • 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)

Instructions

  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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