Fresh Kale and Walnut Pesto

Fresh Kale and Walnut Pesto

Hey, folks! Spring is in the air and we’re reaping the benefits of the garden, so I felt like putting spring on a plate by creating this quick, easy and fresh kale and walnut pesto.

What we’re cooking today

There’s honestly nothing like a good pesto! For one thing, basil is probably my favorite herb out of all of them. I love that it has both a little bit of spice, and a coolness on the palette that makes it perfect for spring and summer dishes. Plus, it’s a thousand times better when you can cut it right from the garden! So, I created this garden-friendly kale, basil, and walnut variation on traditional pesto to utilize the ingredients I had on hand and boost the vitamin and protein content of the dish. I hope you end up loving it as much as I do!

Why make this fresh kale and walnut pesto?

There is also something about pesto pasta as a dish. It’s incredibly simple and serves as a great vehicle for different ingredients. The dish’s elegance is its best feature, though. Seriously. It only takes a half an hour to make, but the result is so sophisticated in its simplicity. It’s such a great at-home date night dish.

For this recipe, I wanted to up the nutrient content and work more efficiently with what we have in the garden, so we’re going to throw in a few kale leaves. They give this pesto a slightly deeper, woodsier flavor transform it into true showstopper.

Real Italian pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, but my version utilizes deliciously rich walnuts. Be prepared! They make this pesto super creamy!

Freshly grated parmesan cheese also takes a starring role in this dish. Now, I know the unadapted version of this recipe is vegetarian and not vegan, but it only takes changing one ingredient to make it the perfect rich and creamy vegan pesto. Instead of using parmesan, simply dump in a healthy portion of nutritional yeast. If you’ve never heard of nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” as it is affectionately known, it’s simply deactivated yeast that comes in flakes or powder. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor that works wonderfully as a cheese substitute in tons of different dishes.

In addition to the kale, walnuts, and cheese, we also add in a squeeze of extra-fresh lemon juice, peppery extra virgin olive oil, and – last but not least- a handful of fresh basil!

Trust me, this recipe is super zingy and fresh, simple, and honestly kind of romantic. 😉

Ready to make it?

Fresh Kale and Walnut Pesto

How do you make it?

Let’s talk about the pasta part of the pesto dish. You can obviously use any pasta shape out there, but for this recipe in particular, be sure to use one that will grab onto your sauce effectively. I’ve used tagliatelle here. I love the ribbon shape and how the noodles wrap around each other to create little pockets for the sauce.

For you gluten-free lovelies out there, Jovial (pictured here) makes a really wonderful tagliatelle that’s light but holds up nicely during cooking, unlike many other gluten-free pastas.

Depending on what kind of pasta you’ve chosen, start by cooking it according to the package directions as you make the pesto. Drain and set it aside until you’re ready to mix in the pesto.

To make the pesto, toss the basil, kale, walnuts, lemon juice, cheese or nooch, two garlic cloves, a generous pour of really nice olive oil, and a pinch of black pepper into your food processor.

Fresh kale and walnut pesto ingredients ready to be pulsed in a food processor.

Give all that a whirl in the processor until it is smooth and creamy with some small flecks of greenery remaining visible. Hint: you can also use a blender if you don’t have a food processor. You’ll just have to be particularly careful not to blitz the ingredients so much that they become liquefied.

Look at all that goodness!

Now, your pasta should be still warm, so toss in a big glob of that deliciously rich pesto and stir to combine! Make sure that the pesto is totally stirred into the pasta before serving.

And look at the masterpiece you’ve created! Date night, anyone? Also, be sure to check out Ryanponic’s earlier post about creating your own hydroponic vegetable and herb garden. Hint: this super-tasty and fresh kale and walnut pesto pasta is the perfect place to toss in all the delicious basil you’ve grown.

Fresh Kale and Walnut Pesto

Fresh Kale and Walnut Pesto

A nutrient-packed, gluten-free, and delicious new spin on traditional basil pesto, perfect for pasta night!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pasta, pesto, fresh, healthy, high protein, delicious, Gluten-free, Vegan option
Servings: 4
Author: LM


  • Food processor
  • Blender


  • 9 oz. pasta of your choice cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup kale packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil packed
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese *use nutritional yeast for vegan option
  • 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

To make pesto:

  • Combine kale, basil, walnuts, cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor.
  • Pulse until the pesto ingredients are well-combined. The pesto should appear creamy, but be sure that there are still flecks of greenery in the mixture for texture. If using a blender, be careful not to liquefy mixture.
  • In a large bowl or saucepan, spoon pesto over cooked pasta and stir gently to fully coat pasta with pesto.

To serve:

  • Spoon pesto pasta into serving bowls. Garnish with red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.


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