Good food doesn’t need to be complicated. Take, for example, pesto. I have to admit, I often find myself purchasing the pre-made stuff, yet homemade sauce literally takes minutes to prepare. Why do I do that? For some, I know, that fear of making a sauce from scratch, especially on a weeknight, often seems out of reach. For me it’s a matter of laziness, but whenever I make it from scratch, I’m reminded of how simple and oh so much better it is. This week, Webicurean is pleased to participate in the #SundaySupper Back to School event, providing 30 minute options for your busy weeknights. This creamy kale pesto is a great example.
In Italian, the word pesto comes from the word pestare “to pound, to crush.” While it’s been around for centuries, the first recipe to appear in print was in 1863, in Giavanni Ratto’s Genoese bible La Cuciniera Genovese. The original recipe, Battuto alla Genovese -Pesto (battuto meaning chopped herbs), calls for a clove of garlic, basil, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo cheeses, pounded in a mortar with a little butter until reduced to a pulp. Oil is then added “in abundance.” Of course, no measurements are given! Ratto goes on to recommend using this to season lasagna, tagliatelle and gnocchi.
Not only is pesto generally a crowd pleaser, it’s also one of those dishes where children can help in the kitchen. For example, my great-nephew, Mark, makes a pretty mean pesto. He’s all of 11 years old, but he’s a quick student when it comes to culinary tasks. Morgan and I may have inadvertently sent him on the path to pesto by getting married! True story. It all started with these wedding favors, filled with basil seeds and the family’s pesto recipe on the back.
He planted those seeds, and his basil plants flourished! Now he treats everyone to pesto all the time. Look at the size of those basil leaves, and he prefers to chop the basil by hand. I’m not sure why, but this is how my family has always prepared the “green pasta.” Like any good Italian, he measures nothing but gathers a bunch of basil, then chops it up with three to four cloves of garlic, then eyeballs the Parmesan and olive oil. Paisano!
Originally, I intended this post to be about traditional Genoese Pesto. After all, with at least half of my ancestors hailing from Genoa, to write about any other “pesto” could be considered, well, sacrilege. Happenstance, however, threw me a curve ball when my plan to make pesto nearly came to a halt as I realized that the basil on hand was starting to turn. Not to be detoured, I salvaged what I could, then looked to the fridge where I discovered a lovely bunch of Lacinato kale, just waiting to be consumed. Could I? Should I?
Well, I did, and the results were fabulous! Lacinato kale (sometimes called Dinosaur or Tuscan kale), is a hearty plant and a nutritional powerhouse. What better way to sneak a little extra veggie into your kids’ diets (or into yours for that matter)? Not only did it blend well with the basil, it lent a vibrant green color that remained green, unlike basil which eventually turns the sauce brownish. This recipe is pretty flexible too. If you’re really short on time, you can skip finishing it off in the oven, and enjoy the pasta as soon as it’s tossed with the pesto. After all, pesto is meant to be a raw sauce. Personally, I prefer to have my kale cooked a bit, so I popped it in the oven for a few minutes which mellows the flavor some. Either way, it’s sure to please.
Shall we begin?
First, let’s get a big pot of salted water on (about a tablespoon for every three quarts). You may as well ready your food processor or blender too.
Meanwhile start gathering the ingredients.
Give both the garlic and pine nuts a rough chop before adding to the food processor, reserving about a tablespoon of pine nuts for garnish. I should note that I cheated a bit here and bought pre-roasted pine nuts from Trader Joe’s.
Process until finely chopped.
Add in the olive oil and give it a good whirl. Yes, I know, this is a great departure from traditional methods, but hey, we’re trying to streamline things here!
Before adding the kale, it needs to be stripped from the stems then given a rough chop. Is your water boiling yet? Get that pasta in the water! It’s all about multitasking.
Then pack the kale tightly into the measuring cup. See those leaves trying to escape? Don’t let them–shove ‘em back down. Follow the same routine with the basil. You’ll need three cups in all (two kale, one basil).
The food processor does the rest of the work. If you add the greens one cup at a time, it’ll be much easier. Once you have this consistency, add the cheeses and butter, then whirl until completely blended.
The pasta should be done by now, so drain it then toss with the pesto sauce. At this point, you could simply serve it as is. Or, if you’re like me and want your kale cooked a bit, prep it for the oven.
Spread the pasta mixture into a baking dish. Drizzle on about 1/2 cup of cream, then sprinkle some Parmesan and the remaining pine nuts on top.
It only needs a few minutes, but what emerges is slightly golden on top and creamy pesto goodness below. It’s especially good with a little crushed red pepper on top!
- ¾ lb elbow macaroni (or your favorite noodle)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, with 1 tbsp set aside
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup tightly packed basil
- 2 cups tightly packed Lacinato kale
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅛ cup grated Pecorino Sardo (or Pecorino Romano)
- 4 tbsp softened butter
- ½ cup heavy cream (optional, for baking)
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a large pot, bring about 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook for about 7 minutes until al dente (if you used a different pasta, follow the cooking instructions on the package). Drain, toss with a little olive oil, and set aside.
- Give the garlic and pine nuts a rough chop, then whirl in the food processor until mashed. Add the olive oil, and give another good whirl.
- To the food processor, add the kale and basil one cup at a time, processing until all leaves are chopped up.
- Next, add in the cheeses and butter. Process until completely blended.
- In a large bowl or pot, toss the pasta with the pesto until every noodle is covered. The pasta can be served at this point, or proceed to the baking steps below.
- Transfer pasta mixture to a baking dish. Drizzle cream evenly over the top, then sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and the reserved pine nuts.
- Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes until golden.
Here are some additional quick and easy meals from the #SundaySupper team–more than 50 dinners that take 30 minutes or less. It’s like having an entire cookbook in one post!
- Greek Dogs by Supper For a Steal
- Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad by Magnolia Days
- Double Duty Fajita Chicken: Nachos Supreme and Enchiladas by Doggie at the Dinner Table
- Zucchini, Corn and Bacon Crepes by Vintage Kitchen
- Oregon Shrimp Quesadillas by Pescetarian Journal
- Korean omelet rice by Crispy Bits & Burnt Ends
- Lemon Dilled Salmon Croquette Burgers by Granny’s Down Home Southern Cooking
- Gluten Free Pepper Steak with Rice by No One Likes Crumbley Cookies
- Crispy Ravioli in Cherry Tomato Sauce by Shockingly Delicious
- BLT Soup by Meal Planning Magic
- Korean Pan-Fried Fish by Kimchi Mom
- Stove top mac ‘n cheese by Gotta Get Baked
- Deconstructed Enchiladas by In the Kitchen with KP
- Croque Monsieurs by Juanita’s Cocina
- Summer Squash and Mushroom Quesadillas by Chocolate Moosey
- Seared Lamb on a bed of Mashed potatoes with Artichoke Hearts by Cooking Underwriter
- Pasta with Creamy Kale Pesto by Webicurean
- Baked Spanish Tortilla by Happy Baking Days
- Grilled Chicken Caesar Pizza by In the Kitchen with Audrey
- Garlicky Pasta with Spinach and Beans by The Lemon Bowl
- Tomato Pie by My Catholic Kitchen
- Shredded Chicken in Peanut Sauce Tacos w/ Corn & Zucchini Sauté by GirliChef
- Tomatillo Chicken Stew by Small Wallet, Big Appetite
- Pollo a la Crema by La Cocina de Leslie
- Baked Tilapia Fish Tacos by Home Cooking Memories
- Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken with a Yogurt Dill sauce and a Greek Salad by Noshing with the Nolands
- Wagon Wheel Pasta with Pancetta & Peas by Chelsea’s Culinary Indulgence
- Lemon & Dill Shrimp Pasta w/ Oven Roast Corn by Mama, Mommy, Mom
- Ricotta – Tofu Tomato Toasts by Yummy Smells
- One Pot Spicy Asian Chicken and Rice by Hezzi D
- Turkey Italian Brown Rice Casserole by Momma’s Meals
- Flatbread Pizza with Cilantro Garlic Sauce by Mom’s Test Kitchen
- Cashew Chicken Stir-fry by Diabetic Foodie
- Chicken Bacon Avocado Quesadillas by Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
- Roasted Butternut Lo Mein by The Meltaways
- Potluck Casserole with Cornbread Stuffing by Cindy’s Recipes & Writings
- Jerk Chicken Chili by Mrs. Mama Hen
- Loaded Chicken and Steak Stuffed Potatoes by Big Bears Wife
- Steamed Tofu Serve with Fried Mix Vegetables by My Trials in the Kitchen
- Pasta with sausage and cherry tomatoes by Tora’s Real Food
- Chicken Ravioli with Peas and Bacon by Daddy Knows Less
- Quick N Easy Thai Coconut Shrimp Stir Fry by Sue’s Nutrition Buzz
- Whole Wheat Pizza with Hummus & Fresh Greens by Family Spice
- Speedy ‘n Spicy Shrimp Pasta by The Weekend Gourmet
- End of Summer Grilled Peach and Chicken Salad by Sustainable Dad
- Teriyaki Tuna Bowl by Family Foodie
- Weeknight Stir Fry by From Fast Food to Fresh Food
- Baked Egg with Mushrooms and Bacon by Pippi’s in the Kitchen Again
- Taco Bake by Daily Dish Recipes
- Fried Rice and Black Beans by Mama’s Blissful Bites
- Chicken with Broccoli, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Bow Ties by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Pasta in Tomato sauce and turkey meatballs by Basic & Delicious
- Pasta Primavera by Midlife Road Trip
- Tots Your Tots Will Love by The Hand that Rocks the Ladle
On Sunday, you can join us on Twitter throughout the day. Also, we’ll be meeting up at 7:00 p.m. EDT for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about Back to School Meals and ways to make meal time easier! Just search the hashtag #SundaySupper.
Please note, I earn a modest commission from any Amazon links presented in this article.