Main dish

Black Kale Pesto recipe

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A pesto made with black kale that can be customised in different ways. Great with white or wholewheat pasta and tomatoes on the side.

  • Prep15m
  • Cook10m
  • Total25m

This deep green pesto is made with cashews instead of pine nuts and cavolo nero instead of basil. It's less oily than regular pesto and heavy on the greens. You can make it extra garlicky, use different nuts like almonds or walnuts and if you don’t have Parmesan cheese, a few anchovies will stand in to add an umami flavour.

I often include some form of tomato to make the dish more interesting. Slow roasted, sun-dried, or halved cherry tomatoes all work well. Whatever the ingredients, a squeeze of lemon at the end gives the dish a lift and leftovers reheat well the next day.

My food processor came with a Parmesan disc but to be honest I’ve never used it. I break the Parmesan into smaller chunks and put it in the main bowl with the normal blade. This is probably why my food processor struggles and the blades are covered in burrs. Anyway, that’s why I’ve specified grated cheese in the ingredients, but I usually blitz the cheese in the food processor just after I’ve processed the nuts.


Replace the cheese with nutritional yeast to make this dish vegan, but add a little at a time and keep tasting.

If your cavolo nero is pre-chopped and has small stems they can be left in as they'll be blended.


Black Kale Pesto

  • Prep15m
  • Cook10m
  • Total25m
Serves: 4


Black kale pesto

  • 150g cavolo nero (large stems removed)
  • 40g cashews (or almonds)
  • 1 garlic clove (more if you like)
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from a lemon
  • 75g fresh grated hard Italian cheese (e.g. Parmesan or Grana Padano)
  • salt and pepper
  • 500g fresh spaghetti (or 400g dried spaghetti)
  • Handful of tomatoes (optional, e.g. slow roasted, sun-dried or fresh cherry tomatoes)

You will need

  • A food processor


  1. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and fill with water from a recently boiled kettle. Add a generous amount of salt.
  2. Add 150g of chopped black kale (cavolo nero) to the saucepan and blanch for 2 minutes then remove using a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Squeeze out as much water from the kale as you can.
  3. Add 40g of nuts to a food processor and blitz until coarse then add 1 garlic clove, 60ml of extra virgin olive oil, the juice from a lemon and the blanched kale. Process until the ingredients start to resemble pesto then add 75g of grated hard cheese and process one more time. Taste the pesto then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook your chosen pasta (I used 500g of fresh spaghetti) in the water used to blanch the kale then, before you drain it, use a small cup or jug to reserve some of the pasta water.
  5. Combine the cooked pasta and tomatoes (if using) with the pesto, adding some of the reserved water to loosen the pasta if needed. Transfer to bowls, squeeze over a little lemon juice, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

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