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Make this kale pesto pasta when you want pasta but also vegetables

It’s bright, it’s light, it’s a perfect weeknight meal.
Kale Pesto Pasta [MICHELLE STARK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Kale Pesto Pasta [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 14

Writing a story about eating kale during the first week of a new decade is a little on the nose, I know.

But this is the perfect time to take full advantage of our healthful cravings, our desire to eat more vegetables after the glut of holiday fare. I find myself motivated to eat more mindfully right now, and I’m leaning all the way into that.

Start with a giant bunch of kale. One of the most forgiving greens, kale can last up to a week when stored properly. My preferred method: Don’t wash it, and place it in a large zip-top bag with a damp paper towel. Seal the bag tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.

One of my kale go-tos, especially right now, is something my husband has dubbed “Kale Two Ways.” It’s inspired by a salad in Alison Roman’s first cookbook Dining In, the main takeaway for me the idea to make kale chips and put them atop your kale salad. Kale croutons, if you will. It’s a genius move, because it means you can load up on even more kale in one meal without the monotony of a raw salad.

To make, tear the leaves off a couple of stalks of kale and tear those leaves into bite-sized pieces. Toss in a large bowl with equal parts good olive oil and white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a shower of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Tear the leaves off a couple more stalks, then tear those leaves into bite-sized pieces and place them on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil to thoroughly coat the kale, then salt lightly and bake in a 350-degree oven until just crispy, between 5 and 10 minutes. They will shrivel a lot, which is what you want. Keep an eye on them; they can turn brown and burn fairly quickly. Top your salad with the chips.

My other favorite way of using kale is in a pesto, a method I picked up from a recipe featured in Bon Appétit’s recent Feel Good Food Plan. It’s by far one of the best ways I’ve seen to pack a ton of vegetables into a single serving. The recipe calls for an entire bunch of kale, and though the original recipe indicated four servings, my husband and I easily used all the pesto for our two servings.

The trick is blanching the kale very quickly in boiling water so it wilts slightly, making it the perfect texture for whizzing with garlic and nuts and olive oil until, voila, pesto.

This dish holds up very well to a really dense, hearty pasta like whole wheat pasta. I used chickpea pasta, specifically the Banza brand, one of the strongest gluten-free options out there in terms of texture and taste. I find that when the pasta is smothered in something like this pesto, it’s hard to tell the difference between a gluten-free version and regular dried pasta. So in the spirit of this cleansing time, why not opt for a lower-carb, higher-protein choice?

Kale Pesto Pasta

1 large bunch kale, ribs and stems removed

Kosher salt

⅓ cup raw pistachios

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 ounce Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving

12 ounces whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta like Banza

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook kale leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate with tongs; keep water boiling. Let kale cool slightly; wring out excess water with your hands.

Blend nuts, oil, garlic and ⅓ cup water in a blender or food processor until very smooth. It might take a few minutes. Add kale and 1 ounce Parmesan. Puree, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then transfer pesto to a large bowl.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.

Using tongs, transfer pasta to bowl with pesto; add butter and ⅓ cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more pasta cooking liquid by the tablespoonful if needed, until sauce coats pasta. Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and a few grinds of pepper.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit

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