Lacinato Kale Pesto

March 2nd, 2017 by megan · 11 Comments

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.


Daily Spud Mar 5, 2010 at 10:28 am

It’s not just you – this winter does just seem to have gone on and on, with yet another hard frost last night. I really hope proper spring is not far away! And I must look out for lacinato kale – I don’t believe I’ve ever had anything other than the curly stuff, so I’d be very curious to try.

Sivan Harlap Mar 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Mmm! That looks really good! You know how I love all things kale..

gastroanthropologist Mar 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

I’m desperate for summer too! Fresh basil, tomatoes, stone fruits….
Kale for pesto, sounds tasty. Walnuts are actually one of my favorites and pine nuts are not on the top of my list either.

What are you planting for summer this year?!

katiek@ kitchensidecar Mar 17, 2010 at 6:20 pm

basil-kale, whatever. Your pesto has inspired me to force a pesto on all the vietnamese herbs I have bought. They all have a minty tinge, so I have no idea where to go from there. Advice on a cheese pairing? It will be an abrupt introduction: rice paddy herb, meet pecorino.

megan Mar 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

@gastro – oh my, i’m planting so much this year! I brought back a bunch of seeds from Italy – San Marzanos, zucca violina, cranberry beans, kale, lots of other greens, gonna try to grow some potatoes above ground @daily spud!!….I can’t WAIT to plant!

yes katie, i love that idea! yum. I think pecorino would be perfect, not to get too un-creative – I love, love, love mint and pecorino together, so if your rice paddy herbs are minty-ish, perfect!

Jessica Mar 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm

I love making variations of the traditional basil pesto, but this is the first time I have seen kale used. Great idea!

Christine Apr 15, 2010 at 3:46 am

Wow!!! This pesto is THE pesto! I love the picture and thanks for sharing the recipe.

Erik Silverman May 18, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Wish I could have a garden in Brooklyn. If only I was able to use Prospect Park…lol

Amy @ Chef Basket Nov 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I’ve always loved using pesto in my pasta and this is a recipe that i can highly recommend to anyone to try out. Absolutely delish!

Trixie Dec 17, 2011 at 7:14 am

I bookmarked this recipe because it’s the only Kale Pesto I’ve found that doesn’t use lemons! don’t get me wrong: I love lemons, but it’s hard to find (or expensive) a few times in a calendar year, so it’s good to have a backup! I started making Kale Pesto early this summer – ever since I found a scalloped potato recipe that used kale pesto between the layers of spuds. Yum!

I just want to add that I use the curly kale for pesto all the time, and have no trouble if allowed to mellow for a bit before use.

Samantha Jan 30, 2012 at 10:07 pm

I had just come across your blog. It’s great! Why haven’t you posted in so long? This kale pesto is so beautiful and i’m excited to get

cooking .
Thanks for the great post. Hope you come back soon!

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