Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

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Spaghetti with Kale and 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.

Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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

  • Hi Jenn
    Is it possible to use frozen kale in this recipe?

    Thank you
    Liz

    • — Liz on February 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Liz, I think frozen kale would work here; just make sure you thaw it and thoroughly squeeze out any excess water. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on February 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • Once again a fabulous recipe from Jenn. I always try to get more leafy greens into my diet and this recipe did just that. I stored my leftover pesto in zip-loc bags.

    • — Deb Corneil on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love finding ways to incorporate veggies into a meal without making it hit-you-over-the-head healthy and thus turning off my children;). This fits the bill! I have been a fan of pecorino romano cheese for years, the other hard Italian cheese, and it oftentimes gets overlooked in recipes. So happy to see it playing a prominent role in this one. It adds some real flavor, and the walnuts give some added crunch, texture and health benefits – win, win, win! When I have some pancetta on hand, I cube it, put it in a pan with a little pepper and garlic, fry it until it’s crispy and sprinkle it on top.

    • — Tamara on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is my first review, but I tried many recipes and I own your first book. It was my recent gift to myself. I made this last night, exactly as written, with just a little more basil as I love it. It was delicious and my son who does not like pasta, hard to believe, had some. Very quick but satisfying dinner. I undercooked spaghetti just a bit so they would not overcook at the end. Next time I may want to try it with pine nuts. Thanks for another great recipe.

    • — Sonja on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I loooOOooove the texture of this. It’s a snap to make but somehow you feel really impressed with yourself, because it’s not marinara from a jar. Definitely opened my mind to the notion that so very many things can become pesto. And it’s delicious!! I always have to eat a few spoonfuls straight from the processor – as does the baby on my hip. Virtuous, addicting, and a kid pleaser. Win win win.

    • — DanaC on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was delicious. Very quick and easy to pull together. The fresh ingredients really add to its appeal.

    • — Sarah Bertrand on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • My kids love “green noodles” and this recipe was delicious. I’ve made it with walnuts and also with pine nuts, which worked well too. I added lemon juice at the end as well. Thank you! I’ve made many of your recipes and they are all wonderful!

    • — Holly on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I am soooo happy to have finally found a pesto recipe that I love. Previously, I have loved the idea of pesto more than I loved actual pesto…and I’m not sure why. Perhaps the inclusion of pine nuts in some recipes? I’m not sure. Anyway, I made this recipe recently and it was a huge hit with my whole family. My two-year-old actually asked for thirds! I also appreciate how quick and easy it was – perfect for a quick weeknight comfort food meal. The only thing I would change next time is that I would make extra toasted walnuts for snacking!

    • — Alexandra on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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