Kale Pesto: Getting a jump on a summer staple

Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan TheKitchn.com Originally Published March 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 20, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.
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Pesto can be made from a variety of hearty greens such as kale, chard, collards and rapini.

It will be months still before I can yank basil from the ground and whiz up some pesto. When basil is in season, I’m slathering it on everything from pasta to crostini to eggs, to the point where it is a kitchen staple. What happens when that pesto-craving hits but your window box is bare, and the market only has sad limp little bouquets of basil? Get creative.

It turns out you can make pesto out of just about anything. What I love to do is pick greens that are at their peak, pair them with a nut (usually not the traditional and high-priced pine nut) and blend into pesto with Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, plus salt and pepper. It’s that easy.

At this time of year, there are not a ton of local in-season greens for a New Yorker like me, but the kale usually looks pretty perky, so this week I made pesto from a nice armful of it. Adapt the recipe in spring with spinach, a mix of greens in summer — broccoli even! — and once fall and winter come around again, try all those hearty greens such as kale, chard, collards and rapini.

Kale Pesto

Makes 1 1/2 cups, enough for 6-8 servings of pasta


1/2 cup chopped walnuts

8 ounces kale, trimmed, rinsed and chopped

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast them in the oven

until they are golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Have a large bowl of cold water ready. Drop the chopped kale into the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, swirl the kale around a few times until it becomes limp.

Drain the kale and plunge it into the cold water. Drain again, then place the kale on a clean dishtowel and blot away the moisture.

Place the nuts, kale, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender, and puree until uniformly smooth. You may need to add more olive oil to reach the desired consistency.

To refrigerate, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto. Will stay fresh for up to 3 days. To freeze, place desired portions in small containers with plastic directly on the surface of the pesto, or place in plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to two months.

Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan is the founding editor of TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit comments or questions to kitchn@apartmenttherapy.com.

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