Superfood, super delicious: Pasta with Kale Pesto

Superfoods. If you’re into eating well, then you’ve likely already heard all about these ridiculously nutritious, often cancer-fighting grains, fruits, and vegetables. Many are fairly ordinary: oatmeal, blueberries, and spinach. Kale is one of the less common superfoods, at least in American kitchens. That might be because curly kale, the variety most often found on grocery shelves in this country, is a bit tough and slightly bitter. Tuscan kale (aka cavolo nero, dinosaur or lacinato kale) is sweeter. Though as part of the kale family, it’s passed over by most home cooks and greeted with suspicion by most American eaters.

In short, it’s the kind of vegetable that The Professor would resist on the theory that anything that healthy can’t possibly taste good.

Which brings us to the difference between wives and mother-in-laws. While The Professor has limited veto power at home, when we go to my parents for dinner he eats what he’s served with a good-son-in-law smile on his face. And so it was that one Easter Sunday, The Professor came to eat kale or as my mother called the dish, “pasta with cavolo nero.” (She thinks she’s Italian, remember?)

“That was actually pretty good,” The Professor said on the drive home.  I filed his comment in a mental folder and, a few weeks later, made the dish at home. He ate it, and within a few months, Mom’s kale pasta had become a semi-regular meal. If I got the kale/garlic balance right, even Ella, my three-something, ate it.

Yet … The Professor didn’t love it. It still left him wanting … something. He gave it a B.

So I thought about what I could add that would make the dish a more satisfying meal. Nutritionally, the dish lacked any substantive protein, so I decided to try adding nuts and cheese. I dug out my Mom’s pesto recipe, and replaced the traditional basil and pine nuts with blanched kale and walnuts. And last night, I cooked it.

It was, indeed, better than the original recipe for kale pasta. But a home run it wasn’t. I knew the grade before The Professor even said it: B+.

“Some people might like it with some sliced cherry tomatoes,” he offered. “To add a different texture and color.”

I may try that come tomato season. But in the meantime, I told him, “You don’t get a grade A meal every night. Some nights you’re lucky for a B+.”

If you have thoughts on how to make the dish an A, post a comment or email me at jessie at boingboing.net. Here’s the recipe:

2 bunches Tuscan kale, stemmed and washed

2 cloves garlic (one blanched with the kale, one tossed into the Cuisinart raw)

1 cup parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling)

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 tsp salt (+ more to taste)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb pasta

Bring a big pot of water to boil and blanch the kale and 1 clove of garlic for about three minutes.

Use tongs to remove the kale and garlic (you’ll be using the water to cook the pasta) and drain well. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water.

In a food processor puree the kale, both garlic cloves, the walnuts and the 1/3 cup of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl combine the kale mixture with the cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta, drain, and toss with the kale pesto

Serve with parmesan cheese.

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