Kale Pesto

When I first heard about non-basil pesto I was pretty skeptical. I mean, basil pesto is so good, why mess with it? Then I saw a Chris Morocco Bon Appétit video and he convinced me to try it. The color is impressive—it doesn’t lose its bright green the way basil pesto does. The flavor is surprisingly good, and it didn’t leave me wishing it had basil. I think it’s a worthy addition to the rotation for the cool months when basil isn’t readily available, so give it a try!

I mostly followed the Bon Appétit recipe.

1 large bunch Tuscan (Lacinato) kale, ribs and stems removed
⅓ cup raw pistachios
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup water
1 garlic clove
1 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
ground black pepper and salt

This will work best in a narrow Vitamix container (32-oz, 48-oz, or tall 64-oz). If you only have the short/wide 64-oz container, you may need to double this recipe, or you might be able to get it to blend by thinning it out with more water.

Lightly cook the kale by boiling handful-sized batches for about 15 seconds, using tongs to remove and put on a rimmed baking sheet. (Save the water for cooking your pasta.) Once cool, squeeze out excess water with hands, and set aside.

Grate Parmesan in blender by putting in ~1-inch pieces and running on high until powdered. Transfer to a bowl and set aside

Blend pistachios, oil, water, and garlic on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add grated Parmesan (1 oz is about ⅓ cup) and cooked/squeezed kale, and blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. You can add a little water to thin it out — I added 1 Tbsp here.

Cook pasta, and save a cup of the cooking water.

Stir the pesto into the pasta, and thin it with pasta cooking water until you get to a consistency you like.

A few things I did differently from the Bon Appétit version: I used two medium bunches of kale, because I wasn’t sure if they qualified as large when I was at the store. In hindsight, I think my two bunches were more than Chris’s “large” bunch, but there was no problem. I also cooked a whole pound of spaghetti instead of 12 oz. I didn’t add butter, and I opted not to thin out my sauce as much as Chris did.

Leftovers held up pretty well. They survived a day in the fridge much better than basil pesto, whose leftovers I’ve found I have to freeze to keep from turning brown and losing flavor.

I think next time I make basil pesto I’ll be tempted to put in some flash-cooked kale to give it some extra color (and nutrition!).

P.S. Not too blender related, but if you have never seen Clare Saffitz’s Bon Appétit Gourmet Makes videos, I HIGHLY recommend them.

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Kale Pesto — 5 Comments

  1. Thanks for the recipe, which looks interesting BTW, if you blanch your basil leaves before making basil pesto, it won’t turn brown. Learned this from Michael Chiarello. It’s a bit of trouble, so I usually don’t bother.

    • Interesting… I would be concerned about losing the fresh basil flavor. With kale it’s sort of the opposite because mellowing out its flavor makes it more palatable.

    • Good question… But with this recipe I think it doesn’t matter too much. I think I used more than the recipe originally called for, and it was still good. So if the bunch doesn’t look large, just get two!

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