I am a traditionalist when it comes to most food, but make an exception for pasta sauces that fit within the Italian tradition of making simple, delicious sauces using fresh seasonal ingredients. Kale & Walnut Pesto fits the bill perfectly.
Not only do the walnuts impart a nuttiness that stands up to the bitterness of the kale, but they also add a creaminess that is enhanced by the optional addition of a little soft, unsalted butter. And what's not to like about a sauce that combines two super-food ingredients - ones rich in antioxidants and unsaturated fats, along with calcium, folate, iron, and other vitamins and minerals?
I also love a sauce that packs an abundance of dark, leafy green vegetables into every bite, meaning a bowl of Kale & Walnut Pesto is a complete meal in itself. I like to think you can taste the goodness in every bite, perhaps because this pesto is a little grainier than other pesto sauces in texture, although you can mix the kale with spinach, basil, or parsley if you like to smooth out the flavor and texture. Either way, it makes for a nice pick-me-up on a cold, January day, when we could all use some extra good-for-you-ness to see us through winter.
2 cups of Tuscan kale, roughly chopped (substitute 1 cup kale and 1 cup basil, spinach or parsley, if desired)
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 ts. red chilli pepper (optional)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. soft, unsalted butter
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Blend walnuts, garlic, salt, chilli pepper and optional butter in a food processor or blender, then add the kale, optional spinach, basil or parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, and blend again until smooth. Taste for seasoning and texture, and add more salt, lemon juice or olive oil, as needed before serving.