When people hear the word pesto, it conjures up images of big bowls of fragrant pesto, bulbs of fresh garlic, and creamy pignoli nuts. (Doesn’t that make your mouth water?) As good as that combination is, pesto has crossed boundaries into new territory. These days, pesto can be made with a variety of ingredients.
I made this pesto with kale. Kale is great to use for pesto because not only is raw kale packed with nutrients, but it’s a sturdy vegetable that holds up very well against the blade of a processor or blender, and it’s flavorful enough to really give a sauce some heft and legitimacy.
But rather than process the greens with raw garlic, as you would with traditional pesto, I sautéed some white onion and garlic in olive oil and added that to the kale. It gave the pesto some sweetness and cut down on the sharpness that the raw garlic would give it. Of course, that sharpness is what many people love about pesto, but the thing about kale is that it’s a heavier, stronger flavor than basil and it can stand to be mellowed out a bit. I also added a handful of cooked green beans to soften the sauce further. But after all is said and done, this is still a flavorful, hearty sauce. You can use it on meats and fish, spread it in sandwiches, or add it to soups, as you would a pistou. For this recipe, I used it with whole wheat penne.
Give it a try. If you like pesto, I think you’ll really enjoy this.
Whole Wheat Penne with Kale Pesto
Makes 4 servings.
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups kale
½ cup cooked green beans
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cups whole wheat penne
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago
Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Remove from heat.Place the kale in a food processor or blender.
Add the onion and string beans, salt, and pepper. Begin processing.
Feed the extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube and process until finely minced.
If necessary, stop the machine, scrape down the sides, and continue processing. It should only take a minute or two.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and transfer to a bowl. Mix in the pesto. Divide between 4 bowls, sprinkle the cheese on top, and serve.