I thought kale was a winter vegetable.
Then I read about all the summer harvests of fresh kale in the gardening blogs I follow.
Turns out kale is actually a really hearty plant that grows all year long.
I might have actually learned this on my own if I had planted my first garden this summer, as I intended to do.
But time ran (bolted. sprinted.) away from me, just like it seems to every summer (it must be a universally recognized fact that days move at 3 times the pace in sunny summer months versus dreary winter months.)
So after I finally got my facts straight on kale, I thought: what could me more perfect for a warm summer evening than a light and crisp summer veggie pasta smothered with lots of kale pesto and Parmesan?
Turns out, not much.
This pasta is so bright and fresh yet satisfyingly creamy and cheesy at the same time.
And it’s pretty quick and simple to make too.
Here are all the fresh, summery ingredients you’ll need to get started.
Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.
Arrange some pine nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast the pine nuts for a few minutes.
And just keep a really close eye on them so you get them out of the oven when they’re still beautifully light golden and not a charred black (you’ve learned from the master of burnt pine nuts).
Grab a clove of garlic and press your knife down flat on the clove, smashing. This makes it easy to peel away the outer skin. No need to take the time to mince it because it will be puréed in a food processor later.
Also roughly chop up half an onion into quarters.
Again, you only need to chop it up enough so the food processor can do all the real work later.
If nothing else, please know that this blog will always offer you my best, tried-and-true, lazy shortcuts.
Heat up some extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
And add the garlic, onion, and lots of fresh kale.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Saute this mixture until the veggies are nicely softened.
Scoop about half of the kale mixture into a food processor and purée.
Then scoop the remaining kale, along with any remaining olive oil they cooked in, into the food processor. Add the toasted pine nuts and pulse again until you have a thick, well-puréed pesto.
If you’ve thought about cooking with kale, but haven’t ventured there yet, this kale pesto is an easy and tasty place to start!
And if you already love kale, this thick and creamy pesto preparation offers a new twist on a classic pesto made with basil.
For all those who didn’t quite get around to growing their own fresh basil this summer (yes, my hand is raised) kale is generally cheaper and holds up so much better and longer in the fridge.
It’s incredibly healthy too. The list of health benefits from eating kale goes on and on and on: low in calories (only about 35 calories in a cup), high in fiber (to keep you feeling full, lower your cholesterol and prevent heart disease), high in Vitamins A, C, and K (provides anti-cancer health benefits), lots of lutein (to keep your eyes strong and healthy) and even a good dose of calcium (for strong bones).
So yup, you can feel pretty good about loading up your plate with a generous portion of kale pesto.
Next, grab a red bell pepper and slice off each of the four sides.
This leaves the stem and seeds intact and easy to throw away.
Cut each quarter into thin strips, lengthwise. Then run your knife in the opposite direction, dicing up the pepper.
Grab a zucchini and chop off both ends.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise …
… and then cut the first half into thin strips.
Then run your knife in the opposite direction, dicing the zucchini.
Repeat the exact same process used for the zucchini to dice up the summer squash.
My squash happened to be very thin on one end and very thick on the other. So I added the step of cutting it in half before cutting the thin strips. This makes it easier to cut and helps keep the chopped squash all uniformly sized.
Grab some real Parmigiano Reggiano (you’ll know it’s the real deal when you see it labeled on the rind as pictured!) and grate it.
Next, heat up a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Add the diced red pepper, zucchini, and summer squash and season well with salt and pepper.
Cook until the veggies are nicely softened.
While the veggies are cooking, boil a large pot of salted water and add some whole wheat penne. When the pasta is just cooked through (al dente), drain the pasta but be sure to hang on to the water the pasta was boiled in because…
… the next step is to stir and combine the cooked pasta, the Kale Pesto, and about 1/4 of cup of the pasta water.
The pasta water helps thin out the pesto and helps the pesto cling to the penne (so much lighter and healthier than adding super-high-calorie olive oil to thin out the pesto).
Finally, stir in the sautéed veggies and all that delicious Parmesan.
What I love about this pasta: The sautéed kale and onion lend a slightly sweet flavor to the nutty pesto.
Which tastes so irresistibly tasty with the salty, melted Parmesan.
This dish tastes really bright, crisp, and fresh.
With just enough creamy, nutty pesto and Parmesan to make it indulgent.
Here is the complete recipe: