A warm bowl of vegetarian pesto pasta coming right up! Follow these easy steps at home to make this 20-minute pasta dish, loaded with good-for-you ingredients. The blended homemade pesto is made with both fresh kale and basil. This greens-packed pasta is a terrific healthy option for lunch or dinner.

Bowl of kale pesto pasta noodles with a silver fork, surrounded by small bowls of ingredients on a light grey backdrop

Everyone needs a good pesto recipe in their back pocket. It’s such an easy sauce to make, and can really elevate all sorts of meals. I would eat pesto on just about anything – sandwiches, potatoes, eggs, and especially PASTA. Pesto pasta is one of my all time favorite pasta recipes!

This kale pesto pasta is just a minor twist on a classic pesto recipe because it features a homemade kale basil pesto recipe. The addition of curly kale to basil pesto hardly changes the flavor, but it adds extra vibrant green color and nutrients (which I love, as a Registered Dietitian). It is bound to be one of your new favorite recipes with kale!

This vegetarian pesto pasta serves 4-6 people as a main dish.

Looking for more healthy sauce ideas? Try my nutritious green sauce for pasta and my parsley pesto sauce!

Step-by-step video

Ingredients in kale pesto pasta

Everything you need to make this recipe is listed below:

  • Pasta – my favorite pasta shapes to eat with pesto include fusilli, garganelle, buccatine, and lumache (as pictured here).
  • Kale – I used curly kale, but you can also use lacinato kale, or even baby kale.
  • Basil adds classic pesto flavor to this dish.
  • Pine nuts add texture and nutty flavor to pesto.
  • Parmesan cheese: I recommend buying a block and grating it yourself instead of pre-grated parmesan cheese.
  • Lemon juice adds just a hint of acidity and freshness to pesto.
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Ingredient substitution suggestions

  • No pine nuts? Try making a kale walnut pesto by using an equal amount of walnuts in place of pine nuts.
  • Use spinach or Swiss chard as a swap for kale.
  • Make this recipe gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten free pasta or bean-based pasta.
  • Make this recipe vegan: Eliminate the parmesan cheese. Add 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast in its place.

Kitchen tools needed

You’ll need a large pot for cooking the pasta, a food processor to blend up the kale basil pesto, a cheese grater to grate parmesan cheese, and a mixing bowl.

Kale pesto pasta ingredients measured out on a light grey backdrop

How to make kale basil pesto pasta

This recipe is so easy to make! It will take you less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

  1. First, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add your pasta and cook according to package instructions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, make your kale pesto. Add kale, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, garlic, and salt to a food processor. Blend until everything is chopped up into tiny chunks.
  3. Add the olive oil to the food processor and pulse to combine. You want your pesto to have some texture, so make sure not to blend it up completely.
  4. Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water.
  5. Drain your pasta and add it to a mixing bowl along with the kale pesto and a splash of pasta water. Stir everything up to toss all the noodles in the sauce. Enjoy!

Storing kale basil pesto pasta

You can make this pasta recipe ahead of time. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to five days.

One of the beauties of pesto pasta? It can be enjoyed warm or cold! If you want to reheat pesto pasta, reheat individual servings in the microwave for 1 minute, or until completely warmed through.

Serving suggestions

Pair this kale pesto pasta with a side salad or roasted vegetable. Some side dish recipe pairing suggestions below:

To make it an even more well-balanced meal, you can add a protein, such as salmon, shrimp, tofu, or cod.

small bowl of kale basil pesto on white marble backdrop

Tips for making this recipe perfectly

  • Use high quality ingredients in your pesto. Since pesto is such a simple recipe, the quality of ingredients is important. I recommend using high quality parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and the freshest kale and basil you can find.
  • Buy a hunk of parmesan cheese and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheeses often have a preservative coating, like potato starch, on them to keep the pieces from sticking together. Your parmesan cheese will taste fresher and blend up more smoothly if you grate it yourself.
  • Don’t rinse the pasta in cold water when draining. When pasta cooks, it releases starches into the water, which ultimately form a coating on the noodles once drained. This starchy coating is crucial for helping the kale pesto cling to the noodles, so don’t rinse your pasta!
hands surrounding a bowl of kale pesto pasta next to small bowls of ingredients and a grey dish towel

Kale nutrition & health benefits

Kale is one of the healthiest foods on the planet! One cup of chopped raw kale provides:

  • 2.8 grams of dietary fiber (10% of your daily needs)
  • 2 grams of plant-based protein
  • 170 mg calcium (13% of your daily needs)
  • 1.1 mg iron (6% of your daily needs)
  • 161.47 mcg Vitamin A (18% of your daily needs)
  • 62.6 mg Vitamin C (134% of your daily needs)
  • 261.3 mcg Vitamin K (218% of your daily needs)
  • 0.616 mg manganese (27% of your daily needs)

In addition to vitamins and minerals, kale has other beneficial compounds including antioxidants and glucosinolates. These compounds help keep us healthy by fighting off inflammation, promoting heart health, and reducing risk of certain diseases.

Is pasta healthy?

Regular white pasta, made from wheat flour and water, can absolutely be part of a well-balanced diet. On its own, pasta does have nutrition benefits! One cup of plain cooked pasta provides:

  • 2.5 grams of dietary fiber (9% of your daily needs)
  • 8 grams of plant-based protein
  • 1.8 mg iron (10% of your daily needs)
  • 0.381 mg thiamin (32% of your daily needs)
  • 0.189 mg riboflavin (15% of your daily needs)
  • 2.351 mg niacin (15% of your daily needs)
  • 165.20 mcg folate (41% of your daily needs)
  • 36.68 mcg selenium (67% of your daily needs)

While pasta is high in carbohydrates, you can easily make it a balanced meal by adding in lots of non-starchy vegetables, healthy pasta sauces, and lean proteins such as shrimp, salmon, or tofu.

Because pasta provides a good amount of plant-based protein and iron, it’s an especially good staple food to include if you follow a plant-based diet.

Let me know if you love these recipes by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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Bowl of kale pesto pasta noodles with a silver fork, surrounded by small bowls of ingredients on a light grey backdrop

Quick & Healthy Kale Basil Vegetarian Pesto Pasta

  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

A warm bowl of vegetarian pesto pasta coming right up! Follow these easy steps at home to make this 20-minute pasta dish, loaded with good-for-you ingredients. The blended homemade pesto is made with both fresh kale and basil. This greens-packed pasta is a terrific healthy option for lunch or dinner.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound pasta, such as lumache, buccatine, or rotini

Kale basil pesto

  • 1 cup packed curly kale
  • 1 cup packed basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Heaping 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the kale basil pesto: add all of the pesto ingredients, EXCEPT the olive oil, to a food processor.
    Kale basil pesto ingredients in a food processor before being blended up
  3. Process the ingredients into tiny chunks.
    kale basil pesto blended up in a food processor before adding oil
  4. Add the olive oil and pulse for 30 seconds to a minute to incorporate the oil into the pesto. Be sure not to over-process, as you want a little texture in your pesto!
    kale basil pesto in a food processor bowl
  5. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.
  6. Add the cooked pasta to a mixing bowl right away, and pour the pesto over the pasta, along with a splash of pasta water.
    big bowl of cooked pasta with a blob of green pesto on top
  7. Use mixing spoons to thoroughly mix the pesto into the pasta.
    big bowl of kale pesto pasta with two mixing spoons in the bowl, on a light grey backdrop
  8. Garnish with fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper, if desired!

Notes

Storing kale basil pesto pasta

You can make this pasta recipe ahead of time. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to five days.

One of the beauties of pesto pasta? It can be enjoyed warm or cold! If you want to reheat pesto pasta, reheat individual servings in the microwave for 1 minute, or until completely warmed through.

Keywords: kale pesto pasta, kale basil pesto pasta, vegetarian pesto pasta