If you read my menu plans with any regularity, you might notice that our vegetarian meals tend to fall into one of three categories: black beans, eggs, and kale. Before we got married, I never thought Ben would be a guy who enjoyed vegetarian meals, and I certainly didn’t think he’d be a kale aficionado. But he is, and I am grateful because it’s healthier and easier on the budget to eat vegetarian meals a night or two per week. One of our fave veg meals is Lemony Kale Pasta, and once I saw this recipe, I knew that we had to try it. I am so glad we did, because it is absolutely amazing!!
I’m a big fan of pesto in any form–classic basil, sundried tomato, and now, kale. Pesto can totally be made with a variety of herbs/greens, nuts, and cheese–this version is flavored with just a few fresh ingredients: kale, walnut, garlic, and lemon. And don’t forget the cheese! I used asiago, but Parmesan or any other hard or semi-hard Italian cheese would also work. I just love the flavor of Asiago… and have since my first taste of those famous Panera bagels. But back to this pesto. I could just eat it by the spoonful, sans pasta. It is utterly heavenly!
Each bite is a burst of nutty, lemony, cheesy flavor. This is a great starter kale recipe, since there are many other strong flavors in the sauce. If you aren’t into lemon, or don’t have one lying around, it can easily be omitted but I highly recommend it! The flavors just go so well together.
I can’t wait to make this pesto again. I think it would be a fabulous appetizer or light lunch–you could spread it on mini toasts, use it as a breadstick or veggie dip, or as a pizza sauce… or really, however you use pesto normally. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! What do you use pesto for? I’m in search of excuses to make this pesto again soon.
- ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons walnuts
- 1 large bunch kale, stems discarded, roughly chopped
- 1 cup grated asiago cheese [2 ounces] + more for topping
- 1 clove garlic
- zest of 1 lemon
- freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- 12 ounces fusilli or other short pasta
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant, about 6-8 minutes. Cool, then chop 2 tablespoons of walnuts and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, then add kale and boil for 30 seconds. Remove kale to colander, saving the cooking water. Return to a boil, then add pasta to water and cook according to package directions.
Meanwhile, add asiago, garlic, ½ cup walnuts, lemon zest, and pepper to a food processor. Use spatula to press kale against side of colander to squeeze out excess water. Add kale to food processor and pulse until finely chopped. With food processor running, pour oil in through the feed tube in a steady stream.
When pasta is cooked, reserve ½ cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return to pot. Add the pesto along with ¼ cup cooking water, tossing to coat. If pasta seems dry, add more water as necessary. Serve pasta with additional toasted walnuts and grated asiago.
Time: 30 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings.
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