Recipe: Kale Pesto

This seasonal recipe comes to us from our friend Mia Cabana, Children's Librarian at the Wheeler Memorial Library, which is located right around the corner from Quabbin Harvest! 



Kale Pesto

My feelings on kale are many; it’s healthy, you can cook it many ways, it’s almost always available. But sometimes all of its virtues can make it feel less exciting to eat, and sometimes if you get a batch where the leaves are a little tough, chewing it can feel like a chores. Which is why I am a big fan of letting something else sharp and metal do part of the work for you. In this recipe, the food processor does all the hard work.

This recipe is quick to make, only involves a handful of ingredients, breaks down to being pretty economical (especially if you buy the ingredients in bulk). I mostly use it as a sauce for pasta but it could be great to dress up a salad, spread on a sandwich, whip into an omelette, or garnish chicken.


2 cups loosely packed kale pieces, torn from the tough stalks

3/4 to 1 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove

¾ cup almonds 

¼ cup parmesan

Total time: 10-15 minutes

Lightly toast your almonds (I usually do this by putting them in my toaster oven on a baking tray covered in aluminum foil to make clean up super easy. I just use the timed-toast setting, but as a guideline 5-7 minutes at 400 should work. Keep an eye on them so they don’t get burned). I do this step first so they have a chance to cool while the rest of the pesto comes together.

Tear leaves in bite-sized pieces from the stalks of the kale, 2 cups loosely packed, and set aside.

Peel one garlic clove and zap it through the food processor. You can use more garlic if you prefer, but I find that with its sharpness in the raw state, one is enough to flavor the whole batch.

Add the kale on top of the minced garlic and zap with the food processor to chop the kale. Sometimes I have to stop at intervals to manually stir the kale up with a spoon so that big pieces don’t get stuck on top. (I chronically over-pack my kale in this recipe so if you’re following the recipe and actually only have 2 cups, you’ll probably have an easier time!)

When the kale is fairly evenly minced, drizzle in your olive oil as the processor is running. This creates the emulsion texture and smoothes out the rest of the chopping. When all oil is combined, add the almonds and zap again for a few seconds to chop them. Finally, add the parmesan cheese, blend for a few more seconds to combine. 



I like this pesto with a thick consistency, but you can add additional olive oil to make a looser pesto, especially if the addition of nuts and cheese make it seem like the food processor is having to work too hard. 

I’ve made this recipe using other nuts such as walnuts; vegans may want to use ¾ cups of cashews or brazil nuts and omit the cheese. Sometimes I add herbs in with the kale. This is a basic recipe that can be customized a lot of ways! I tend to use it immediately, but it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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