Our kale pasta combines your favorite Italian pasta with a creamy and luscious sauce with tasty sautéed kale, creamy ricotta, and savory parmesan cheese.

Lemon zest, garlic, and red pepper flakes are added for an extra zing that elevates the taste of this comforting dish.

The marriage of chewy pasta cooked al dente with the velvety sauce makes for a wonderful eating experience.

Kale pasta in a bowl with hand and a red nail

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian diet. For vegans, swap non-dairy cheese for cheese. For a gluten-free diet, substitute gluten-free pasta for wheat pasta.

Our creamy kale pasta is inspired by pasta al limone, a famous Italian dish where the pasta is tossed in a rich and velvety sauce made with ricotta, parmesan, and grated lemon zest.

Adding chopped and sautéed kale to pasta al limone makes the dish tastier, more nourishing, and more nutritionally balanced.

While the pasta cooks, we sauté the kale with some olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Then we add ricotta, grated parmesan, and grated lemon zest to the pan with the kale, stir in some cooking pasta water, and toss in the pasta.

And that’s it! This is a quick, easy, tasty, and satisfying recipe you can enjoy as an everyday dinner when you don’t have much time to cook.

Creamy Kale Pasta in a white bowl with lemon

Ingredients & Substitutions

Kale pasta ingredients

Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Kale

You can use dinosaur kale (also called lacinato kale, cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale) or curly kale.

In either case, we recommend discarding the woodier stems.

We’ll show you how to make this creamy kale pasta with whole kale leaves, but you can also do it with pre-chopped kale that comes in a bag.

Substitute spinach for kale.

Olive oil, Garlic, and Red Pepper Flakes

Sauté the kale in extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes to make it tender and flavorful.

Substitute avocado oil for extra virgin olive oil.

Substitute finely chopped fresh chili, chili powder, or cayenne pepper for red pepper flakes.

Pasta

You can use any Italian pasta, from long shapes like spaghetti and linguine to short ones like rigatoni, rotini, and penne.

To make the recipe gluten-free, Substitute gluten-free pasta for wheat pasta.

Ricotta

You can make this recipe with cow’s milk ricotta or sheep’s milk ricotta ricotta cheese.

Substitute cream cheese or heavy cream for ricotta.

For vegans, substitute our homemade non-dairy ricotta or non-dairy cream cheese for regular ricotta.

Parmesan

You can use grated parmesan cheese (we recommend Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano for the best flavor) or pecorino Romano for a more robust, intense flavor.

For vegans, substitute vegan parmesan or a non-dairy vegan cheese for grated parmesan.

Lemon

Grated lemon zest, ideally from an organic lemon, adds a pleasant, zesty flavor to this kale pasta recipe.

Optionally, add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice as you toss the pasta with the sauce.

Salt and black pepper

We use sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Nutmeg (optional)

Grated nutmeg is optional. It tastes delicious with ricotta, parmesan, and kale, but if you don’t have it in your pantry, don’t worry. This kale pasta will still be delicious without it.

kale pasta in a bowl with silver fork

How to make kale pasta

US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Boil the pasta

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until it is al dente – that’s about one minute less than package directions.

While you wait for the water to boil, start preparing the kale.

Tip: boil the water without salt. Add salt when the water is already boiling. Cover the pot with a lid as you wait for the pasta to boil, but then when you add the pasta, cook it uncovered, without a lid.

rigatoni cooking in a large pot of salted boiling water

Prepare the kale

If you use pre-chopped bagged kale, skip this step.

If you use whole kale leaves, rinse the kale and shake the water off.

Remove the leaves from the stems by holding the stem with one hand and pulling the leaf off with the other.

removing kale leaves from stems

Chop it into bite-size pieces.

chopping kale leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add crushed garlic and red pepper flakes, and let them fry gently for about a minute.

Add the chopped kale and a pinch of salt and sauté, moving it around the pan for a few minutes or until it wilts.

Tip: If you like tender kale, add a ladleful of water and cook the kale for a few more minutes.

kale leaves sautèeing in a skillet

Make the creamy sauce

Turn the heat to low, then to the pan with the kale, add a cup of pasta cooking water, a cup of ricotta, a cup of grated parmesan cheese, grated lemon zest, and some freshly ground black pepper.

Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until the sauce gets creamy.

kale leaves with ricotta sauce in a skillet and hands

When the pasta is al dente, reserve one cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce.

Toss until the pasta is fully coated in the sauce. Add more pasta water if necessary.

rigatoni pasta in a skillet with ricotta sauce and kale leaves

Serve kale pasta immediately – the sauce dries quickly, so avoid making this ahead of time.

Top it with grated lemon zest, grated nutmeg, black pepper, toasted pine nuts, or crushed walnuts.

Creamy Kale Pasta with fork

Serving suggestions

This creamy kale pasta is a nutritious and fulfilling meal as it contains all the macros and micronutrients you need for a satisfying meal.

We recommend serving it with a light side dish such as:

For a more substantial meal, serve with seasonal vegetables, such as:

Variations

Creamy spinach pasta

spinach and ricotta pasta with fork

Substitute spinach for kale to make a wonderfully creamy lemon ricotta pasta with spinach. It’s easy, delicious, nutritious, and excellent when kale is out of season.

Check out our lemon ricotta pasta with spinach.

No greens? No problem!

rigatoni al limone with walnuts

If you love the simplicity of a velvety smooth sauce, serve the ricotta sauce with the pasta and garnish with fresh thyme and crushed walnuts.

This is a Pasta al Limone ready in just 15 minutes and a comforting Italian dinner idea.

Tip

How to cook pasta?

You’ll need a large pot of salted water as follows:

  • 8 ounces of pasta (230 grams): cook pasta in 2 quarts of boiling water (8 cups or 2 Liters) with 1 tablespoon of salt (15 grams). Serves 2 – 3 people.
  • 12 ounces of pasta (340 grams): cook pasta in 3 quarts of boiling water (12 cups or 3 Liters) with 1 ½ tablespoons of salt (21 grams). Serves 4 people.
  • 1 pound of pasta (450 grams): cook pasta in 1 gallon of boiling water (16 cups or 4 Liters) with 2 tablespoons of salt (30 grams). Serves 5-6 people.

To speed up boiling, add the salt once the water is already boiling and cover the pot with a lid.

However, once you add the pasta, you should cook it uncovered, without a lid.

How much pasta per person?

Guidelines recommend 2.1 to 3.5 ounces or 60 to 100 grams of pasta per person, depending on your calorie needs.

Pasta portion sizes vary if you have pasta as a main and only meal or if it’s part of a 2 – 3 course menu.

Also, remember that a simple pasta with tomato and basil will have substantially different calories and macros than baked ziti with cheese and meat.

Storage & Make Ahead

Make ahead: creamy kale pasta is best eaten right after making it as the sauce dries up as it gets cold. We don’t recommend making it for meal prep, but because it’s quick and easy, you can make it for an everyday dinner.

Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.

Reheat: Do so in a large skillet on medium heat with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water or plain water for 5 minutes or until the sauce gets creamy.

You can also reheat it in the microwave for two minutes, sprinkled with water.

kale pasta and how to store it

More Kale Recipes

If you’re curious about ways to cook with kale, get inspiration from these green and easy kale recipes:

More Pasta Dishes

Here are some more veggie-packed and tasty 20-minute pasta meals:

  • Broccoli pasta with mashed broccoli and orecchiette pasta is a creamy green dinner idea.
  • Hummus pasta with sautéed mushrooms and hummus sauce, a family favorite.
  • Pasta Pomodoro with an easy, tasty tomato sauce that everyone will love.
  • Easy Pasta Puttanesca: dinner in 20 minutes with spaghetti, capers, olives, and loads of tomato sauce.
  • Lemon pasta: creamy, tangy, and elegant dinner and restaurant-worthy meal.

For many more pasta ideas, check out our pasta category page.

Kale pasta in a white bowl with lemon on the side

Kale Pasta

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 5 votes
Our kale pasta combines your favorite Italian pasta with a creamy and luscious sauce with tasty sautéed kale, creamy ricotta, and savory parmesan cheese.
Lemon zest, garlic, and red pepper flakes are added for an extra zing that elevates the taste of this comforting dish.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American Italian

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pasta any, we use rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 6 ounces kale
  • 1 cup ricotta or dairy-free ricotta
  • ½ lemon the grated zest
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese grated, or dairy-free cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Cook 12 ounces pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as per package instruction minus 1 minute.
    While the pasta cooks, prepare the kale.
    removing kale leaves from stems
  • Rinse and shake the water off 6 ounces kale leaves. Remove the stem and chop into bite-size pieces.
    chopping kale leaves
  • In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil with 2 cloves garlic (crushed) and ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
    Add the chopped kale, ½ teaspoon salt and sauté for about 5 minutes.
    Tip: if you like more tender kale, add 1 ladleful of water and cook 5 more minutes.
    kale leaves sautèeing in a skillet
  • Turn heat to low; add 1 cup of pasta cooking water, 1 cup ricotta, 1 cup parmesan cheese, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, and the zest of ½ lemon.
    Stir until the sauce gets creamy.
    kale leaves with ricotta sauce in a skillet and hands
  • Add the pasta and toss until well combined, adding more pasta cooking water if necessary.
    rigatoni pasta in a skillet with ricotta sauce and kale leaves
  • Serve immediately with a grating of lemon zest and some freshly cracked black pepper.
    kale pasta in a bowl with a fork on the side

Video

Creamy Kale Pasta in 20 minutes

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of creamy kale pasta out of 4.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make ahead: creamy kale pasta is best eaten right after making it as the sauce dries up as it gets cold. We don’t recommend making it for meal prep, but because it’s quick and easy, you can make it for an everyday dinner.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.
Reheat: Do so in a large skillet on medium heat with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water or plain water for 5 minutes or until the sauce gets creamy.
You can also reheat it in the microwave for two minutes, sprinkled with water.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE

Nutrition

Calories: 582kcal, Carbohydrates: 72g, Protein: 27g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 54mg, Potassium: 476mg, Dietary Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 4765IU, Vitamin B6: 0.3mg, Vitamin C: 47mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 169µg, Calcium: 483mg, Folate: 52µg, Iron: 2mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 76mg, Zinc: 3mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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2 Comments

  1. I made this for dinner today, and it was good, but the sauce was thin. I had to add some cornstarch to thicken it. I made enough for 1 person. Perhaps next time I will use 1/2 cup instead of 1 cup of water. 🙂