Easy Orecchiette with Kale Pesto
Orrecchiette with kale pesto, an easy, healthy weeknight favorite, made with fresh greens, almonds, garlic, and parmesan.
A few years ago, before I moved to the South, or fell in love, or had any inkling that I could make a living photographing and writing about food, I lived in San Francisco, working longish hours as an interior designer at a high-end hospitality firm in SOMA, a few blocks from the ball park.
By the time I left work in the evening, and made it through the sardine-can bus route to Chinatown, then walked up those steep, steep hills to my apartment, there wasn’t a lot of energy left for homemade cooking.
So every Sunday, I would prepare several meals in advance for lunches and dinners throughout the week, aiming for thoughtful, tasty dishes that kept well, and were easily reheated.
I was just cooking for one then, and didn’t mind eating the same thing a few days in a row, especially if it was something flavorful and comforting that had simmered away for most of the afternoon.
Since transitioning to working entirely from home, more often than not, I find that “lunch” has become whatever I happen to be recipe testing/shooting that day. Not a lot of thought goes into it, but I’m working on changing that, and getting back to making healthy, satisfying lunches to enjoy during the week. The first round: dainty Orecchiette pasta tossed with a super easy kale pesto.
The name orecchiette translates to “Little Ears,” and comes from the Puglia region of Italy (along the southeastern coast, or the heel of the “boot”). Orecchiette happens to be one of my very favorite types of macaroni pasta, especially with pesto sauces, because the indented, domed centers are perfect for scooping up bits of sauce.
This kale pesto is easy to whip up and can be made in big batches; a layer of olive oil on top will keep it fresh for a few weeks in the fridge. You can substitute whatever nuts you have on hand; in fact, I had originally intended to use walnuts here, but instead used what we had in the pantry: almonds.
You can also substitute any dark, leafy green (or the traditional basil) in place of kale, but I’m a fan, and had some left over from this soup. The kale is accented by salty, flavorful Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano), fresh garlic, and a good squeeze of lemon juice to brighten things up. I like to toss the orecchiette and the pesto together in a hot skillet to cook the edge off the kale, and really incorporate the pesto into all the crevices of the pasta. Then, it’s into a big bowl to be topped simply with more finely-grated Parmesan for a perfect weekday, Fall lunch (or dinner).
- 12 oz orecchiette pasta (or other pasta of choice)
- 4–5 cups (loosely-packed) kale, rough stems removed and torn into pieces
- 1/4 cup whole almonds
- 1/2 cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup good olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, according to package directions, about 12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the kale and almonds to a food-processor and pulse several times. Add the cheese and the garlic and pulse several more times. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the food processor.
- With the food processor running, slowly add the lemon juice and olive oil in a steady steam until the pesto comes together and emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Drain the pasta. Add the pesto to a skillet and heat over medium heat for a few minutes until warmed through. Add the pasta to the pesto and let cook for a minute or two, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, as needed. Serve warm with grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.