What’s a girl to do when faced with too much kale and too little time? Make pesto!
When it comes to something like pesto, it’s hard to say that anyone has proprietary claims to any one recipe. I did look at this recipe on Tastespotting and this recipe on Food 52 for nut-cheese-oil ratios. In all honesty, I have so much kale on hand that I threw those proportions right out of the window. I just kept tinkering and measuring until I had a sauce that was so good, I wanted to eat more and more of it.
Kale has a clean, bitter flavor that I think pairs better with walnuts than pine nuts. When using walnuts, I like to also use walnut oil. Some Meyer lemon zest keeps the sauce nice and fresh. You can also zest a regular lemon if Meyer lemons are not available to you. If you don’t want to emphasize kale’s refreshing bitterness, you can use just olive oil. It will still taste great.
Kale pesto has an earthier flavor than basil-based pestos, and that flavor demands a heartier pasta like whole wheat. Fusilli is always a good choice for pesto because the spirals catch and capture the sauce beautifully.
It’s always a good idea to toss pasta and pesto together in a separate bowl. You don’t want the Parmesan in the sauce to burn and stick to the bottom of a hot pot or pan. The warm pasta — plus a little of the hot pasta cooking water if needed— will loosen the sauce up without the need for any external heat.
I am looking forward to eating my kale pesto in other ways this week, like on pizza or in lasagna. I hope it freezes well too because I made a lot of it!
1 pound of whole wheat fusilli
2/3 of a cup of walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
2/3 of a cup of freshly grated Parmesan
The zest of 1 lemon
5 cups of washed and torn kale leaves, no stems and no ribs
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of walnut oil
How to prepare:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Spread the walnuts out in an even layer on a baking tray. Bake the walnuts until they are nicely toasted. This can take between 6-8 minutes. Be very careful to not let the walnuts burn. Let them cool before making the pesto.
3. While the walnuts are cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, about 12 minutes.
4. While the pasta is cooking, combine the garlic and walnuts together in a food processor with some salt. Add the Parmesan and the lemon zest. Pack all the kale into the food processor bowl and with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive and walnut oils. Continue to process everything until you have a smooth and creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning.
5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it into a large bowl. Add the pesto, a dollop at a time, until the pasta is nicely and evenly coated. Serve immediately.