Spaghetti with Kale & Walnut Pesto

If you like kale—or even if you’re on the fence—you’ll love this modern and healthy twist on pesto pasta. It’s one of my go-to dinners on Friday nights. Michael loves it and I can have it on the table in 20 minutes. And if we’ve got a bottle of white wine chilling in the fridge, all the better to unwind after a long week.

Heads up: You’ll need some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce, so be sure to reserve some before you drain the pasta. It’s easy to forget, so I always put a liquid measuring cup right next to the colander as a visual reminder. Serves 4



  • 1/3 cup [35 g] shredded pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup [60 g] chopped walnuts toasted, if desired
  • 1 pound [455 g] bowtie pasta
  • 2 cups [50 g] packed torn kale leaves stems removed
  • 1 cup [20 g] tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more for boiling the pasta
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup [120 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup [40 g] walnuts toasted if desired
  • 2 medium garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup [50 g] grated pecorino Romano cheese


Step 1

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil until al dente, about 10 minutes, or according to package instructions.

Step 2

Meanwhile, make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the kale and basil; process until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients (except the extra cheese and walnuts for the topping) and pulse until smooth.

Step 3

Reserve 1 cup [240 ml] of the cooking water, then drain the spaghetti in a colander. Add the spaghetti back to the pot and toss with the pesto and ½ cup [120 ml] of the cooking water. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the water. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, then serve topped with the grated pecorino romano and chopped walnuts.

Cook Notes

Pro tips: Cover the top of the food processor with plastic wrap before securing the lid; that way, you won’t have to clean the top. Toasting the walnuts isn’t essential, but it brings out their flavor and makes them crunchier. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Arrange the walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake, checking frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a plate and let cool.

From the Kitchen

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