Kale and Pecan Pesto


I’m famous for substituting major ingredients in any and all recipes. Luckily, this works exceeding well with pestos. Pesto is a great sauce that is adaptable to what you have on hand. Use it on pasta, as a dip, add a little to top a soup, put it on a pizza…the possibilities are endless. Tradtionally, pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil, but you can substitute items you have on hand to make your own version. I’ve used spinach, parsley,  every kind of nut around, parmesan, pecorino…you name it, you can probably make it into pesto.

Substitute at will:

greens + nuts + cheese + garlic + olive oil = pesto

The gist of it is to toast the nuts, briefly blanch the kale (if I’m using basil or another delicate herb, I skip this), and wring the water out of the kale using a clean towel. Then process the kale with the cheese, nuts, garlic and salt and pepper and stream in the olive oil. Toss with cooked pasta. Dinner in less than 30 minutes. Done! Check out the full recipe below.

Kale and Pecan Pesto (adapted from Real Simple)


  • 1/3 C plus 2 T pecans
  • 1 bunch kale, torn, washed with stems discarded (about 12 C-it cooks down a lot)
  • 1/4 C good quality grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 C Olive oil
  • 3/4 pound rotini, fusilli, penne or other short cut pasta (I use whole wheat)

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast pecans until fragrant, tossing once, about 4-6 minutes. Reserve 2 T of pecans and chop.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the kale and cook until bright green, 30 seconds. Transfer kale to a collander with a slotted spoon and reserve the cooking water. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the kale dry in a clean cooking towel. (It will resemble defrosted frozen chopped spinach at this point).

In a food processor, combine the kale, Parmesan, garlic, 1/3 C pecans (reserve 2 T for garnish), 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.

In reserved kale water, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 C of the cooking water. Drain pasta a return it to the pot. Add the pesto and 1/4 C of the reserved cooking water and toss to coat. Add more cooking water to loosen the sauce if pasta seems dry. Garnish with grated Parmesan and chopped pecans. Serves 4.



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