Kale Pesto

April 23, 2013

Kale Pesto

I’m dealing with a kale jungle kinda situation right now. It’s my undying love for kale that brought me to this “emergency”. You see, back in September I bought a packet of kale seeds at the farmer’s market. I was very excited at the idea of growing kale on my balcony. Too excited. In that state I didn’t care for reading the instructions printed on the back of the packet (1st mistake) and planted ALL the seeds in a large pot.
After a couple of weeks ALL of the seeds sprouted nicely. ALL of them. I definitely put a generous pinch of seeds in each hole rather than the required 1-3 per hole (2nd mistake). So there were LOTS of sprouts. LOTS.
Instead of thin them to one main sprout I just left them be (3rd mistake).
Then winter came; the sprouts stopped growing and I almost forgot about them. Better yet, I thought that they were never gonna make it through winter (4th mistake).
Oh man, I was wrong. As soon as spring began (like a month ago) the little sprouts started growing and grew, grew, grew, greeeeew. Like the magic bean in “Jack and the Beanstalk”.
Fortunately some of the sprouts died (they suffocated each other or something) but there is still a huge amount of kale growing a few inches everyday: the kale jungle.
To give you an idea, I’m harvesting a good ½ pound of it daily. Which is awesome. Don’t get me wrong. I’m saving loads of money and loving it.
The flip side is that I need to eat kale every day and need to be creative in kitchen in order to put this kale bonanza to good use (a kale salad won’t do it!)
The Kale Jungle
Today I made kale pesto. Kale pesto is a thang in the clean eating universe. Meaning that there are hundreds (thousands, millions!) recipes. Everyone seems to have her/his take: different nuts, different cheeses, blanched versus non-blanched kale and so on. I tried many, tweaked some and ultimately fell in love with this one.
Using pistachios is the way to go when making kale pesto, they’re the best. At least much better than pine nuts, much better than almonds and much MUCH better than walnuts. I also feel that you need to blanch kale in hot water, it removes some of its bitterness (bitter pesto is an awful thing for starters). I also like to use a mix of Parmesan and Romano cheeses (just as in regular basil pesto).
You can do whatever you want with your kale pesto, personally I like it on pasta, whole wheat pasta (call me old fashion). To me pasta means spaghetti. Are there any other shapes worth eating? I don’t think so...

Kale Pesto                                                                                                               Print this recipe!

Yields about 1 cup of pesto, feeds 4

1 bunch of kale (roughly ½ lb / 226 gr), de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
⅓ cup unsalted pistachios, de-shelled
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup cooking water, plus more if needed
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


Bring a heavily salted pot of water to a roiling boil. Add garlic and kale (making sure to submerge it in the water) and blanch for 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon fish the kale and the garlic out of the water and transfer to a colander. Allow to cool slightly and using the back of a spoon (or your hands if you dare) squeeze out some of the water.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, toast the pistachios for 2 minutes (if you’re in a hurry you can skip this step).
In a food processor add (toasted) pistachios; pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the blanched kale, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse until the kale is broken up and nearly smooth. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides. Throw-in Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes (if using). Pulse again and while the food processor is running slowly add the water until the pesto reaches a creamy consistency.
Transfer kale pesto to a bowl and using a spoon stir in the olive oil until it’s completely absorbed. If the kale pesto looks a bit too thick, add more water (not oil), one tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Cook the pasta per package instructions. Drain and toss immediately with the kale pesto. Serve topped with a few pinches of fresh thyme and some shavings of Parmesan-Reggiano.

Nutrition facts

One serving yields 200 calories, 17 grams of fat, 8.8 grams of carbs and 5.4 grams of protein.


  1. Ha! Kale jungle, soooo funny

  2. Great recipe, thanks for sharing

  3. Delicious. Excellent recipe! Just made this for lunch and it was so tasty. Thanks for sharing!