This 20-minute creamy kale pesto pasta is a fall and winter dinner favorite! Make it with our tasty kale pesto for a wholesome and quick meal.
Perfect for when you’re short on time, you can make the kale pesto pasta sauce in a few minutes. And if you want to add more veggies, try tossing in some roasted pumpkin. It’s delicious!
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Check out our Easy Pasta Recipes
Pasta with kale pesto sauce is an excellent winter recipe when you feel like having something homemade but don’t have much time to cook.
Kale pesto is quick and easy to make, just like basil pesto, with a few ingredients in a food processor.
Make this pasta for lunch, dinner, as a potluck meal, or lunchbox idea. It’s excellent for meal–prepping as you can make the pesto ahead and mix it with the pasta on the day of eating.
The pesto keeps well for up to a whole week in the fridge and several months in the freezer, so it’s a fantastic make-ahead recipe for last-minute meals.
Ps. you can make kale pesto pasta with dairy or without. To make it dairy-free, substitute nutritional yeast for parmesan. Quantities are in the recipe card below.
We use farfalle or bow ties. You can use any pasta for kale pesto pasta. From spaghetti and linguine, to rotini, fusilli, and rigatoni.
For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta; the pesto is naturally gluten-free.
You can use curly kale or dinosaur kale, also called Tuscan kale or lacinato kale.
You can use pre-chopped kale leaves if you discard the woodier stems.
Fresh garlic is a must in pesto. Try to avoid garlic powder here.
You can use almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, or macadamia nuts for the nutty component. Here we use almonds.
We add freshly squeezed lemon juice for a touch of freshness. The pesto is delicious without lemon, so don’t worry too much if you don’t have one handy.
Parmesan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast
You can either use grated parmesan cheese or make the recipe vegan and substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan. We tried and loved both versions.
To get the blender going and to keep things cool. We also add water so that we can reduce the amount of oil. If you are a pesto purist, substitute the water with more oil.
Pick a fruity good quality extra virgin olive oil. You’ll taste the oil in this recipe, so pick a good one.
We recommend sea salt or kosher salt.
Make kale pesto
Rinse the kale, pat it dry, chop it up, and discard woodier stems.
To a food processor, add chopped kale, garlic, almonds, parmesan or nutritional yeast, water, lemon juice, and salt.
Pulse until finely chopped; scrape down sides if necessary.
Add the oil and pulse a few more times until you reach your desired consistency and texture. Taste and adjust for salt.
Don’t blend continuously; the oil might turn bitter if you do so.
Toss with pasta
Boil the pasta al dente in a large pot of salted water. First, boil water, then add salt, then add pasta.
When the pasta is ready, reserve two cups of pasta water and drain the pasta.
Tip: You’ll need about 3 quarts (12 cups or 3 Liters) of water and 1 ½ tablespoons (21 grams) of salt for 12 ounces (340 grams) of pasta.
Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl, pour in about half the kale pesto, add half a cup of reserved pasta water and toss with a spoon until thoroughly combined.
Add more pasta water or more pesto if desired. Store leftover pesto in the fridge.
Serve as is, with a drizzle of olive oil, some grated parmesan, or grated lemon zest.
Kale pasta with winter squash
If you have more time, try kale pasta with your favorite roasted orange vegetable.
Start baking the veggies before you even start making the pesto.
Chop the pumpkin into dice, toss it with oil, salt, and black pepper, and bake in a preheated oven at 430°F or 220°C for 20 – 30 minutes. Add to the kale pesto pasta for a colorful, delicious, and nutritious meal.
Serve as a main meal with a side salad:
- Chickpea salad: an easy 15-minute salad with creamy mustard dressing
- Fennel salad with orange, olives, and pomegranate seeds
- Pear salad with orange wedges, ricotta cheese, and dried cranberries
- Carrot salad with parsley and a delicious cumin dressing
Garnish the pasta with one of these tasty toppings:
- Confit tomatoes: slow baked and packed with rich tomato flavor
- Caramelized onions: sweet and slightly tangy pan-fried onions
- Roasted chickpeas: crispy and charred baked chickpeas
- Red pepper flakes or a drizzle of chili oil
How to cook pasta to perfection?
You’ll need about 3 quarts (12 cups or 3 Liters) of water and 1 ½ tablespoon (21 grams) of salt for 12 ounces (340 grams) of pasta.
Refrigerator: store kale pesto pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Ideally, store one cup of pasta cooking water as well.
Reheat: the pasta will get dry in the fridge. Add it to a large skillet with 1/4 cup of reserve pasta water (or tap water) and a tablespoon of olive oil, and toss on medium heat for 5 minutes or until warm.
You can also reheat it in the microwave with a couple of tablespoons of water drizzled on top.
For kale pesto storage instructions, check out our kale pesto recipe page.
More easy pasta recipes
If you love quick and easy pasta recipes, here are some more for you:
- 20-min broccoli pasta with mashed and creamy broccoli sauce
- Easy Italian pasta Puttanesca with olives, capers, and tomato sauce
- Lemon pasta with spinach and grated lemon
- Pasta with hummus and garlic-sauteed mushrooms
For many more pasta ideas, check out our pasta category page.
Kale Pesto Pasta
- Food processor
- 12 ounces pasta any, we use farfalle.
- 3 packed cups (3.7 oz) chopped kale curly or dinosaur kale, woodier stems removed.
- ⅓ cup almonds sub walnuts or pine nuts.
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated, sub 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flake
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse kale, pat it dry, chop it up, and discard woodier stems.To a food processor, add chopped kale, garlic, almonds, olive oil, parmesan, water, lemon juice, and salt.Pulse until finely chopped; scrape down sides if necessary.
- Add oil and pulse a few more times until you reach your desired consistency and texture. Taste and adjust for salt.Don't blend continuously; the oil might turn bitter if you do so.
TOSS WITH PASTA
- Boil the pasta al dente in a large pot of salted water.When the pasta is ready, reserve two cups of pasta water and drain the pasta.
- Add pasta to a large mixing bowl, pour in about ¾ of the kale pesto.Add half a cup of reserved pasta water and toss with until thoroughly combined.Add more pasta water or more pesto if desired. Store leftover pesto in the fridge.
- Serve as is, with a drizzle of olive oil, some grated parmesan, or grated lemon zest.
If you love this kale pasta, you might also enjoy the following: