I’ll never forget the first time I went to Italy, in 2002, and discovered “pesto genovese.” I had read that the Cinque Terre was the birthplace of pesto, and thus rationalized ordering gnocchi alla pesto at every meal for weeks. A classic basil pesto, made of just seven ingredients, it was somehow so much more delicious there than anywhere I had ever had it here – and remains more delicious than any I’ve had since (but for a couple trips back).
I plant basil every spring, use it throughout the summer, and somehow have an abundance turning to flower in August. As such, last week I decided to make a batch of pesto to freeze (one of my favorite uses for pesto, aside from just using it as a pasta sauce, is to use it as a garnish for minestrone soup all winter – freezing small amounts in an ice cube tray is the perfect way to have homemade pesto on hand year round). And as long as I was in the pesto spirit, I tried a kale pesto recipe that had been on my to-do list as well. While the classic pesto is always delicious (although nowhere close to the Italian version), the kale version is pretty dang good too, and you can feel that much better about yourself.
Classic basil pesto, Barefoot Contessa version: pine nuts, walnuts, garlic
Blend in the parm, basil, salt and pepper, and then add the olive oil until it reaches the consistency you’d like. Ina calls for a fair amount of oil, I used less. I do wish I had blanched the basil leaves, as some recipes recommend – it helps remove any bitter flavor and helps the leaves maintain their bright green color as well.
Basil Pesto, from Barefoot Contessa
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts (you could use all pine nuts for a more traditional pesto, or all walnuts for a cheaper and healthier alternative)
3 tablespoons garlic, or 9 cloves (I used a little less)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Place the pine nuts, walnuts, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds, then add the basil, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly puréed. Add the parmesan and purée for another minute. Use immediately, or store pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of oil on top (any exposure to air will turn your beautiful bright green sauce brown within minutes, it’s just heartbreaking).
This kale pesto is pretty similar to the basil pesto recipe, only it uses all walnuts, and lemon juice to brighten it up a bit. I used the bagged kale from Trader Joe’s because I was too lazy to drive to another grocery store, but its a lot easier to cut out the stems when you’re working with whole leaves. Here you definitely need to blanch the kale leaves, and remove the stems, or it will be too bitter. Even if you aren’t a kale lover, this is a delicious and super healthy pesto that could be used as a sauce (thinned with water), a dip or a spread.
Kale Pesto, from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
1 small bunch lacinato or Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (I used a little more)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or a little more)
Blanch the kale leaves for about a minute, then transfer to a strainer and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Once the kale has cooled, squeeze out the excess water and set aside. You should have about a cup and a half of kale.
In a food processor, combine the garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, and walnuts and pulse to chop. Add the kale, water, and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and pulse to combine (I added a handful of basil here as well). Turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you like (I thinned it with a little too much water, which is why it looks like gross green water in the picture – I promise it tastes better than it looks).