Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

Tested & Perfected RecipesCookbook Recipe

A winter-friendly twist on pesto pasta, this spaghetti with kale and walnut pesto is a quick weeknight dinner and a delicious way to sneak in some healthy greens.

Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

From my cookbook, this winter-friendly twist on pesto pasta is one of my go-to weeknight dinner recipes. I can get it on the table in 25 minutes max, and it’s a great way to sneak in some healthy greens (green-phobic kids: you know who you are!).

Note that you’ll need some of the cooking water from the pasta for the sauce, so be sure to reserve some before you drain the pasta. It’s easy to forget when you’re multitasking, so I always place a liquid measuring cup right next to the colander as a visual reminder. Also, the kale and walnut pesto freezes beautifully so do yourself a favor and make a double batch.

What you’ll need for spaghetti with kale and walnut pesto

How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

How to make spaghetti with kale and walnut pesto

Begin by toasting the walnuts in a 350°F-oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

how to make saladBring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil until al dente, about 10 minutes, or according to package instructions.
How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut PestoMeanwhile, make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the kale and basil.

How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

Process until finely chopped.

How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

Add the remaining ingredients.

How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

Pulse until smooth and set aside.

How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the spaghetti in a colander. Add the spaghetti back to the pot and toss with the pesto and ½ cup of the cooking water. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the water.

How to Make Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, then serve topped with the grated Pecorino Romano and chopped walnuts.

How to Freeze Kale and Walnut Pesto

The pesto can be frozen for up to 3 months. Store in a tightly sealed jar or airtight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (the oil seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing, which would turn it an unappetizing brown color).

Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

A winter-friendly twist on pesto pasta, this spaghetti with kale and walnut pesto is a quick weeknight dinner and a delicious way to sneak in some healthy greens.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 cups packed, torn kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for boiling the pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted if desired (see note)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

For Serving

  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil until al dente, about 10 minutes, or according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the kale and basil; process until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the spaghetti in a colander. Add the spaghetti back to the pot and toss with the pesto and ½ cup of the cooking water. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the water. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, then serve topped with the grated Pecorino Romano and chopped walnuts.
  4. Note: Toasting the walnuts isn't essential, but it brings out their flavor and makes them crunchier. To toast them, preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake, checking frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a plate to cool.
  5. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about a week or can be frozen for up to 3 months. Store in a tightly sealed jar or airtight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (the oil seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing, which would turn it an unappetizing brown color).

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 888
  • Fat: 47 g
  • Saturated fat: 10 g
  • Carbohydrates: 90 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 27 g
  • Sodium: 405 mg
  • Cholesterol: 29 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Could I use mozzarella instead of Pecorino Romano cheese in the pesto?

    • — seal on June 23, 2019
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, that won’t work here – sorry!

      • — Jenn on June 24, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hellow, it’s time for me to buy a new food processor, and
    I wonder if you could tell me what the brand name of your food processor is.

    • — sooyeon on May 11, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Sooyeon, I have the Cuisinart 14-cup and am very happy with it. 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 12, 2019
      • Reply
  • This is one of my favourite recipes!!! It is packed full of Kale and the kids can’t taste it!!!!! My whole family loves this, and it is not easy to please everyone in a family of 6, but this one wins! I make it all the time and everyone gets happy, it is a go to for me! Thanks again Jenn!

    • — Kathy Cabral on April 27, 2019
    • Reply
  • I love this dish! It was easy to make and my kids devoured it! I would not change a thing. Like always, your recipes are spot on. My kids have no idea they are eating kale, but some things are better left unsaid! Thank you and I really enjoy your cook book :0)

    • — Luli on April 15, 2019
    • Reply
  • This was good, but we both prefer Jenn’s classic basil pesto (espeically with the broiled shimp).

    • — Stacy R. on April 15, 2019
    • Reply
  • This dish was amazing! I followed the recipe but used pamasean cheese because that’s what I had available. It turned out perfect and was very easy to make. The walnuts and cheese on top added the perfect texture and flavor to finish the dish!

    • — Nancy Adams on April 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe exactly as written. It was so easy and seemed lighter and healthier that traditional pesto pasta. My whole family loved it and it is definitely going into the dinner rotation! I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • — Catherine Becker on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe. It’s balanced and delicious. I don’t think I’ll go back to my all basil recipe after making this.

    • — Sarah on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Simply Delicious! Quick and easy and packed with nutrition. Great way to get kids to enjoy kale. Add a roasted chicken breast for large appetites and your dinner is complete.

    • — Kristy Altman on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • I’ve used this recipe with pasta, and it’s delish, but decided to use “zoodles” this time. It turned out great. My tip would be to spiralize the noddles a couple of hrs before you cook and blot w/ paper towels to get the excess water out. Sometimes I leave them in the fridge wrapped in paper towels in Tupperware overnight… I think it makes them less soggy. Really important to toast the walnuts, don’t skip this step. I also used a little more basil and cheese than called for to make up for the texture of the zoodles. I thought it was really very tasty and I appreciate that when using no carbs!

    • — dddemos on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe! It was very easy to prepare and the whole family enjoyed it. Definitely going to make it again. I added some grated Parmesan because I like it cheesy.

    • — Coral King on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • My vegetarian sister came to visit, so I was looking for a new recipe to try. This was a big hit with all of us, vegetarians and omnivores alike! So much so that my sister asked for the recipe.

    • — Kat on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe for the taste and healthy ingredients that it incorporates. Super hit with the whole family including my 2 daughters who are 14 and 11. I accidentally asked my husband to bring Kale and Arugula instead of Basil , he got Basil later on though. Since I had Arugula as well , made a pesto with all the 3 greens and the pesto was amazing and I feel good that I am feeding my family a healthy dish.

    Thanks Jenn.

    Madhuri.

    • — Madhuri Krothapalli on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this last again last night to serve to my sister, brother and future sister in law. My oh my! Fantastic and wonderful dinner 🍽
    My sister is not a wild fan of kale but when she tasted the pesto she was all in! Dinner included a mixed salad, garlicky bread and strawberry shortcake for dessert.
    We now have two more kale pesto converts 😜!
    Both sister and soon to sister will be following your site.
    Thanks Jenn

    • — Kathy on April 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • 😋 😋😋😋😋!

    • — Corey on March 21, 2019
    • Reply
  • This was so good that I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning and eat some of the leftovers for breakfast! The pesto has a perfect balance of flavor and coats the spaghetti evenly and fully. It was incredibly simple to make and my family loved it. I appreciate that your recipes are thoroughly tested and thoughtfully written for perfect results! Thank you!

    • — Meredith on February 28, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hello….Jenn, I love this recipe and have made it several times. Recently, I have gone Keto and this is the one dish I do miss. How would you improvise this beautiful recipe. My thoughts were with zucchini ‘zoodles’ instead of pasta. Thanks in advance for your responses. You Rock Girl👍

    • — Gail on February 27, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Gail, I think subbing the pasta with zucchini noodles is a great idea! I love to hear how it turns out if you try it. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 28, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn

    This has become a favorite in the family. Thanks for a wonderful healthy recipe . I had Basil and Arugula at home so made a pesto with Kale , Basil and Arugula. Was a total hit.

    Thanks
    Madhuri.

    • — Madhuri Krothapalli on February 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely fantastic! In fact, I’m struggling to stop eating it! Made exactly as written, but cooked the spaghetti in my Instant Pot in vegetable broth. I won’t change a thing when I make it next time…and there will be a next time! Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

    • — NavyGirl on February 12, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made this last week. It was delicious and very simple to make. I was surprised that the smaller amount of basil really covered the taste of the kale. The walnuts in it were great too. I will definitely make again!

    • — Lori on February 10, 2019
    • Reply
  • Wow this really is a fabulous pesto Jenn! I did sub pine nuts for the walnuts and it was wonderful. Think I will try roasted pistachios next time . Very versatile not only for pasta but for so many other foods as well . My kids love to simply dip fresh bakery bread in it and ask for it often!

    • — Kim K on February 7, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, do you think pecans or pine nuts could be subbed for the walnuts? I am not a fan of walnuts

    • — Kim K on February 5, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Kim, I think either would work here, but if I had to choose, I’d probably opt for the pine nuts. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 5, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn love every single recipe you have! I was going to try this tonight, could I use gluten free pasta and would it be good to top with grilled Chicken?😁

    • — Melissa on February 3, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, Yes and yes. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 3, 2019
      • Reply
  • Loved this dish the 1st time i made it and because it kept so well in the fridge i was able to eat leftovers with added baby spinach
    I am now making it again a winner thx so much from an Aussie fan

    • — Kelli on January 22, 2019
    • Reply
  • This was SO good! I’m trying to eat more vegetables, but don’t like a lot of vegetables, so this recipe was a happy find. I used baby kale, and subbed Parmesan instead of Romano since that’s what I had.

    • — Hope on January 21, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this last night and it was fabulous! I did substitute fresh spinach for the kale since I’m not a huge fan of kale and it was wonderful. Very hardy and perfect for a cold winter night! Thanks Jenn. Your recipes are fantastic!

    • — Lisa on January 21, 2019
    • Reply
  • Can’t wait to try this Had a lovely lunch of pasta with kale pesto last week in Beaufort SC Chef served pesto with flat pasta, diced beets, haricots vert, shredded Brussels sprouts, pomegranate, and pecans. Now I can replicate it. Thanks

    • — Judy M on January 20, 2019
    • Reply
  • I’ve just made a batch of this & eaten it as suggested…oh boy, it’s divine…I’m not a huge pesto fan, but the kale softens the strong basil taste somewhat. It’s a meal in itself, nutritious, vibrant green and as all recipes I use from your site Jenn, a keeper….love, love, love your recipes…they never fail me! Thank you! Lynda

    • — Lynda on January 19, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this tonight with both gluten free and regular spaghetti. I also added some jumbo lump crabmeat before serving. INCREDIBLE!!! Your recipes never disappoint! Thank goodness I have leftovers to eat tomorrow. Also I had recreated the 1905 salad from my favorite Columbia Restaurant in St Armand’s Circle and served your wonderful sangria which is spot on! Thanks Jenn!!

    • — Abbie on January 18, 2019
    • Reply
    • We love Columbia, too, Abbie! Glad you enjoyed. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • Made this last night and it was just lovely! Squeezed a touch of lemon over it and was so hearty and flavorful.

    This would be nice with roasted vegetables (butternut squash?) and maybe a smaller noodle, like a penne.

    Love your book, Jenn!

    • — Jake on January 17, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn:
    This looks terrific and I’m anxious to try it! Wondering if I can substitute fresh spinach for the kale?

    Lisa

    • — Lisa M Brucia on January 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Lisa. I think that will work; just omit the sugar as you won’t need it to balance the bitterness of the kale.

      • — Jenn on January 17, 2019
      • Reply

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