Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto

This Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto is a quick and easy meatless dinner! Make your pesto with cashews for extra creaminess. Blanching the kale also helps keep the pesto green.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6


For the pesto:

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale (about 12 ounces), stems removed and leaves torn into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cashews
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Water, as needed, to thin the pesto

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound whole wheat linguine, spaghetti, or bucatini.
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces


1 Blanch the kale: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.

Add the kale to the boiling water and stir for 15 seconds, or until wilted and deep green. With a slotted spoon, transfer it to the bowl of ice water. (Alternatively, transfer to a colander and run it under cold water.) Reserve the cooking water in the pot.

Squeeze the kale with your hands to remove excess water.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto

2 Make the pesto: In a food processor, pulse the cashews and garlic a few times until finely chopped. Add the kale and Parmesan, and pulse until they are also finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.

With the motor running, pour in the olive oil. Add the salt and pepper. If needed, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to bring the pesto to the desired thickness. Taste the pesto and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto

3 Cook the pasta: Return the pot of water used to blanch the kale to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until al dente. (Check the package for recommended cooking time.)

Scoop out and set aside 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta in a colander.

4 Toss the pasta: Return the pasta to the empty cooking pot and toss with the lemon juice. Add 1 cup or more pesto, to taste, and toss again. If the pesto seems dry, add a little of the pasta cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce coats the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella pieces and serve.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto

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  • Karen

    Am wondering whether almonds would work, as I have them on hand. Also pine nuts.

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Karen! Sure! You could really substitute any nut in this recipe, and I think either almonds or pine nuts would be great.