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Lots of people love kale. Remember when literally EVERYONE was OBSESSED with Kale. I was not one of those people. I hated Kale most of my life. I’ve only recently learned to love Kale (and other vegetables, thank god my palette changed as I got older.) Kale can be bitter and tasteless, at least that’s what I thought when I was a kid. But what kid likes vegetables anyway? But this easy kale pesto may change your mind on kale, or at least give you another way to enjoy it!
I’m still learning to love Kale. Kale chips are amazing, I’m actually working on a kale chip recipe right now, so look out for that! And then there’s kale pesto, which is something I had never tried before this. And that’s exactly why I started Happy Stirring, without this blog I probably wouldn’t be experimenting with food as much. Not everything turns out amazing, and that’s okay. But let me tell you, the kale pesto? AMAZING. So easy and flavorful, and I’m sure this is something I will be making my future kids. They won’t even know that there’s kale in here!
Nut Free Kale Pesto
I know, pesto typically has walnuts, or pine nuts, or any kind of nuts in it. I chose to eliminate the nuts from this recipe, and every pesto I make. If you’ve read my How to Make a Simple Pesto post, you know it’s because my boyfriend is allergic to walnuts. Prior to us getting together, I would always add walnuts to my pesto, and honestly, I don’t miss it. I’ve never made this recipe for Phil before, but I’m sure I will in the future. It’s a good and simple go to weeknight recipe. It doesn’t take long, and the blender is doing most of the work! And after working all day, and coming home knowing that I have a HUGE to do list between trying to straighten up the house, and working on this blog, sometimes you need something fast and easy. Which is probably why I’ve made this easy kale pesto so many times over the last few months.
Adding the Sausage
While the kale pesto is definitely delicious all on it’s own, the one time that I added sausages to it, blew my mind. During our last hurricane, when our power was out, things in our fridge were going sour. And I absolutely HATE wasting food. My mom had asked me to make the kale pesto one night while the power was still off. Thankfully our neighbor who had power, ran an extension cord through out front door so I could use the blender. We have great neighbors!
The night before the storm my mom had stuffed the fridge with ice, and frozen soda bottles of water (because she plans ahead like that – and has saved us on numerous occasions.) But our bottom drawer, where the meat is kept, unfortunately couldn’t stay as cold. So I plucked them out of the drawer before they went back down there. Then, of course, I quickly closed the fridge back up (we have the rule, when the power goes out, no one opens the fridge.) The sausage gives this kale pesto a good bonus flavor, especially with that little bit of oil that accumulates at the bottom of the pan while the sausage cooks.
And if you don’t have sausages, or eat vegetarian like my best friend Ari, just eliminate the sausages all together and just make the kale pesto! That’s the beauty of how easy this is, you can add or remove anything you don’t like, and it will still be delicious!
Blanching the Kale
My first time making this recipe I sorta just threw the kale in the blender with all the other ingredients. Which was fine, but chunky to say the least. It wasn’t what I was going for and my taste testers (my parents) weren’t as impressed as I would have hoped. So I did a little research, and learned that if I wanted to make a smoother sauce, I should cook the kale first. But, only for 1 – 2 minutes. So I set my timer, brought the pasta pot out (because why not) and blanched the kale in boiling water. Then I used the same pot for the pasta! Less cleaning, and the pot came back up to a boil in no time. It just made sense.
Blanching the kale made SO MUCH of a difference. The kale pesto came out smooth and delicious. And, like I said before, the kale flavor was faint, but still there. So whether your cooking this for yourself, and trying to eat more vegetables, or trying to trick your kids into eating their vegetables, this is recipe for you! I know I would have liked this as a kid, despite my distaste for kale and all leafy greens, to be honest (again thank god my palette changed as I got older!)
Easy Kale Pesto
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage crumbled
- 1 small bunch Tuscan kale
- 2 handfuls fresh basil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 lb pasta of your choice
- In a large pan over medium heat, cook sausages thoroughly, crumbling as it cooks 15 – 20 minutes. (see notes)
- While the sausage cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Wash your kale thoroughly, submerge kale in boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Remove kale from water, bring pot back to a boil, and add your pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Remove stems and combine kale in blender with oil, garlic, basil, and parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth, if you need more liquid, add 1 Tbsp pasta water at a time until smooth.
- Mix pesto, cooked pasta, and sausages and serve immediately with some extra parmesan cheese on top.
- For the sausages: make sure you remove the casing prior to dropping it into the pan, typically I remove the casing, and then crumble it with my hands. Then as it cooks I continue to break it up with the spoon, until it’s small enough for the pasta (think bite sizes pieces.)
- I’ve also tried this recipe without the sausages and it’s just as good, so if you adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, you can enjoy this dinner just exclude the sausages.
If you liked this recipe, tried it, or want to improve it, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what everyone thinks! Make sure to subscribe to the Happy Stirring emails, and follow me on Instagram to stay up to date with all my ongoing breakfast, lunch, and dinner experiments!