Lacinato Kale Pesto

March 2nd, 2010 by megan · 11 Comments

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Kale Pesto with Fusilli

Summer is many months away, but I find myself dreaming of the bunches of fresh basil I picked from the garden (yes, we have gardens in Brooklyn!) last summer. In an effort to bring a bit of summer sunshine to the kitchen, I made kale pesto instead of classic basil pesto – lacinato kale is one of my favorite fall and winter vegetables. No, it’s not quite basil, but it will do for now, as we wait for the snow to melt and the spring buds to finally open. (Is it just me, or has this winter seemed to last forever?)

I recently had a version of this kale pesto at Franny’s restaurant here in Brooklyn, and of course I got a bug to recreate it in my own kitchen. I think this recipe comes pretty close. I used walnuts because I didn’t have any pine nuts on hand (and I have to admit, they’re not my most favorite of nuts) – but pine nuts could be easily substituted. I would hesitate to use anything but lacinato kale for this recipe – I think curly kale would be far too bitter.

This recipe makes a scant 1/2 cup of pesto or less – you only need a tablespoon or so per serving of pasta. It would also be lovely with grilled chicken or fish.


1 cup lacinato kale, roughly chopped (about 1 small bunch of kale)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts, lightly crushed
Kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or less)
2 tablespoons Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra cheese for serving (if serving with pasta)

Special Equipment: Food processor


  1. Add the kale, garlic, walnuts, and a generous pinch of salt to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a several times to combine.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube of the food processor. Depending on the consistency you like, you may not use all of the oil, so pour slowly. Run the machine continuously for a minute or two to obtain a very smooth consistency. Add more oil if the consistency of the mixture isn’t smooth.
  3. Add the cheeses and pulse to combine.
  4. Taste and correct for salt.
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