Kale pesto is a great way to use leftover kale up. Credit: Sandy Oliver / BDN

This story was originally published in October 2020.

Sometimes it isn’t a recipe that makes for good cooking. Sometimes it isn’t even cooking. And then sometimes, a new recipe just turns out to be an extension of another good recipe.

Earlier this fall, I visited with my friend Margie and her friend Peggy. We had drinks on her porch overlooking East Penobscot Bay. She offered both cheddar and blue cheese with rice crackers to go with our beverages, and put out a small bowl of chopped up red onion. All we did was add a piece of onion to the cheese on our cracker. So simple. So fabulous a flavor! A great idea.

As the days grow cooler, my niece Sarah who lives with me, prefers hot breakfasts. She combines oatmeal with some of my homemade granola, calling it “granoatmeal.” I like it, too, biting down on a pumpkin seed or piece of nut. The toasted oatmeal in it, along with other seeds and nuts, simply makes plain rolled-oat porridge more interesting and flavorful.

At the weekly farmers market I participate in, it’s fun to talk with buyers about what they plan to cook with the produce they choose. When a young woman selected one of my last zukes, a large one, I thought, ‘There goes zucchini bread’, but she said, “I’ll going to cube it up and put them on kebab sticks to grill.” I wish I’d thought of that.

An acorn squash buyer described cutting them in rings no more than an inch thick and cooking them on an olive oil greased sauté pan. It cooks more quickly than baking a half acorn squash, and it turns golden brown, and looks spiffy with the scalloped edge. No recipe required. You could roast the rings in the oven instead of the stove top, I suppose.

In desperation to use up abundant self-sowed cilantro from the garden before frost, I turned to making cilantro pesto and parsley pesto. I use the same method as for basil pesto, whirl it up in the food processor with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, though I usually add parmesan cheese just before using it in case I want the herb pestos to flavor a soup or other non-pasta dish instead.

But I never thought of kale pasta.

So at the end of the market this week, I had a couple of bunches of kale unsold, and Pam, one of the other vendors, said she’d discovered another thing to do with kale. “You can make a pesto out of it for pasta,” she said. She described heating two or three cloves of smashed garlic in a generous amount of olive oil, then steaming a big bunch of kale leaves torn off the stem, and adding it to the pan with salt and pepper. Then after cooking it for another five minutes or so, pureeing it in a food processor, adding grated parmesan, and stirring it into cooked pasta. We had some for supper that night. Just fine!

Some of the kale pesto directions I see on the internet call for adding nuts, but I didn’t do that and we didn’t miss them. Also, I didn’t steam the kale separately, I tore it all up, added it to the garlic and oil and covered it to steam in the sauté pan. I also added a few crumbles of feta cheese lounging around in my fridge that I wanted to use before they turned blue.

A kind of non-recipe for kale pesto follows. It’s pretty, green, and when you stir it into a fun shaped pasta — I used campanelle, a tubular shaped pasta with frilly edges — it’s fun to eat. Fun enough to forget how wholesome eating kale is.

Kale Pesto

Yields about 1 cup pesto

¼ cup olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic

4–5 stems of kale, soft leaves stripped off stems

Salt and pepper

Grated parmesan cheese

Cooked pasta

Pour the olive oil into a broad sauté pan, over a medium heat. Peel and smash the garlic with the broad side of a knife and add to the oil.

While the garlic is softening in the oil, tear the kale into small pieces and add them to the sauté pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with a tight lid.

Cook all together, stirring from time to time until the kale is very limp.

Remove from the heat and empty into a blender or food processor. Process until it forms a paste.

Add the parmesan cheese, taste and adjust seasonings.

Stir into the pasta and toss until the pasta is well coated.

Serve with more parmesan on the side if desired.

Makes enough for a pound of pasta

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...