Serves a Crowd

Kale PestoΒ Orecchiette

January  2, 2014
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 4 servings, plus 1 container of pesto for the freezer
Author Notes

Here's a not-so-traditional pesto recipe -- hold the herbs and nuts. The recipe yields enough pesto for two dishes, so you can stock up the freezer! Any pasta could be used with the pesto, but I love how the orecchiette cups hold onto pools of pesto. —Brussels Sprouts for Breakfast

Test Kitchen Notes

This is a great recipe to transition from summer to fall. A garden-fresh, family meal that's hearty but light, fresh, and filling. And the extra pesto you make is a time-saver for a future meal. —Mid-Mitten Homemade

What You'll Need
  • 2 bunches (about two cups) lacinato kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups olive oil
  • 1 pound (1 box) orecchiette pasta
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  1. This recipe makes about double what you need for pasta. I made the pesto and put half of it in the freezer for a super easy meal down the road.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, onion, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the kale and 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Cover and let steam and cook for 8 minutes, until the kale is soft.
  3. In a food processor, pulse together the parmesan cheese, lemon juice, white vinegar, kale mixture, and a dash of salt and pepper about 8 times. Blend everything together as you pour 1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil into the food processor in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.
  4. Transfer about half of the pesto, which should be about 1 to 2 cups total, to a large serving bowl. Add the other half to a sealable container and pop in the freezer.
  5. Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the box in salty water. Before draining, add 1/2 cup pasta water to the pesto in the bowl. Drain the pasta and add it directly to the pesto. Combine everything with two wooden spoons and serve hot.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rach
  • AngelaM-E
  • Gail 🐝
    Gail 🐝
  • Dina Moore-Tzouris
    Dina Moore-Tzouris
  • Ubaldo

16 Reviews

Bread &. October 15, 2020
Made this for my family at my grandparents' house and they didn't have dijon mustard, so I used yellow mustard and VERY SLIGHTLY (like just didn't fill the tablespoon up all the way) less lemon juice and vinegar and despite my initial panic it was a surprise hit :D I also roasted some chickpeas in the oven while the pasta was cooking and put them on top to make it slightly heartier. Will probably make again as it's a sort of bright, zesty take on the usual fall/winter flavors and a really nice change of pace.
Shreya October 18, 2016
Didn't love this much as I had hoped. Not the best colour and the taste was so-so.
qb October 15, 2015
One of the worst recipes that I have tried in a long time. Beautiful green pesto turns an unappetizing puce fairly quickly. Sad about disrespecting the gorgeous lacinato kale that I purchased for this.
Rach July 24, 2015
We just made this for lunch. Very good--but warning! We used only 1/2 cup of olive oil and felt like it was just a little too oily--so I cooked down one bunch of spinach and tossed it in. If you like your pesto lower on the oil, I'd suggest starting with just 1/4 cup and adding more to taste.
AngelaM-E January 31, 2015
We just made this for dinner last night. It was delicious. The second half of the pesto won't be in the freezer long ;). Thanks for a great recipe!!
akkenedy January 25, 2015
Just made the pesto portion of the dish and put it on wholewheat pizza. Daughters (age 3 and age 1) loved it! Thanks for the inspiration!
Brussels S. January 27, 2015
Such a great idea for the pesto! I think I'll have to do it myself!
Gail 🐝. January 20, 2015
Thank you. :)
Gail 🐝. January 20, 2015
I cannot find red pepper flakes.
Brussels S. January 20, 2015
Hi Gale - Any type of dried chilies would be fine for this one. Just something to give it a little kick. If no dried chili flakes, you could use about 1/4 tsp of chili powder as a replacement. Cheers!
Dina M. October 25, 2014
I just made this and it was DELISH! We had a kitchen disaster last week(burst pipe) and I made it in a cast iron pan on my hot plate, and threw it into the Vitamix. We were laughing and what a beautiful meal we made on a hot plate. Thanks for the great recipe!
Brussels S. October 27, 2014
So glad you guys enjoyed the recipe amid a small disaster! Hope the kitchen is back in order soon!
Ubaldo October 9, 2014
It looks interesting...I think this dishe is similar to a traditional dish in souther of Italy ( Bari) where the pasta orecchiette is originated. The dish is made with rapini and toasted with hot olive oil and anchovies. I'll try this variation
Brussels S. October 10, 2014
Hope you enjoy it, Ubaldo!
Ubaldo October 10, 2014
Thanks, it was very good! How did you come across this dish?
Ciao, Ubaldo
Lizthechef January 16, 2014
Nice - I'm going to try this.