01/10/2014 03:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kale Pesto


This wintry version of pesto is robust, but just as luxurious as the classic basil sauce. Indeed, kale lends itself marvelously to making pesto! And the sauce is quick to make -- all that's needed is to blanch the hardy leaves for a few minutes before making the sauce... and voila!

But it did take me some time to get the flavor of this pesto just right. The blanched leaves have a pronounced earthy flavor, almost a mineral taste, that needs to be balanced -- I would even say tamed! And Pecorino Romano, with its salty bite, turned out to be the perfect counterpoint. The fresh parsley sprigs, on the other hand, round off the flavors marvelously, bringing a fresh, herbal element to the sauce. The pine nuts, of course, add such a wonderful creaminess that they're indispensable here.

This kale pesto is wonderfully versatile, and can be used in all kinds of dishes: toss it with your favorite shape of pasta, swirl it in a risotto, spoon it on top of pizzas or serve it as a sauce or condiment. Whichever way you serve it, this pesto will enchant the taste buds.

Kale Pesto

makes 1 1/2 cups
active time: 20 min

6 oz (170 g) Tuscan kale (Lacinato kale) or 7 oz (200 g) curly/regular kale
1 tablespoon sea salt (to blanch the kale)
12 parsley sprigs -- tough stems removed
1/3 cup finely grated Reggiano Parmesan
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1 large garlic clove -- skinned and halved
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Step 1: If using Tuscan kale, trim 1" off the bottom of each leaf. For curly/regular kale, remove the small leaves around the bottom of each stem and trim the stem at the base of the main leaf. Fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes and set aside. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and kale leaves. With the back of a spoon, push the leaves down so that they are submerged in the boiling water. Blanch for 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Scoop the leaves out and transfer to the ice water bath. When the leaves are totally cooled (about 30 seconds), drain and squeeze all the extra liquid out. Set aside on paper towels.

Step 2: Using scissors, cut the kale in 2″ pieces. Place the kale and the balance of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about 1 to 2 minutes until it forms a creamy paste, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. Transfer to a container. Use right away, refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.


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Here's another super delicious and colorful pesto: Beet pesto!