You Don’t Have to Wait for Basil Anymore

What if you could have a bowl of steaming fresh pasta with freshly made pesto right now? In winter freshly made pesto is a summer dream. I love pesto. I consider it vitamin P. I grow a forest of Genovese basil every year and make pesto with Parmesan cheese, home grown garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and pine nuts, walnuts or pumpkin seeds. Serve it on homemade spelt pasta, Yum.


yes, that’s Thai basil on the right

This is a pleasure which begins in late May when the basil plants are big enough to pluck leaves, and ends in November when the frost hits, only to be prolonged by endless pots of frozen pesto, which just isn’t the same.

Now. A few weeks ago I was invited to dinner by my cousin’s Neapolitan wife. (From Naples, not chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. Just kidding.) Chiara had actually found this recipe in Yoga Journal, but the meal was absolutely Italian. Fresh bread, red wine, a salad, and pasta……………with Kale pesto! Yes.

Bright green, creamy, smooth and parmesany, it’s a little more like a vegetable sauce than a condiment. You can load it on; it’s lighter than regular pesto, and it doesn’t turn black. And what is pesto, after all? Actually, it’s a raw chopped sauce, usually oily and garlicky, applied to a hot food. Pistou is like that as well. The kale pesto is different from basil pesto in that the kale is quickly blanched. If you don’t want to destroy enzymes maybe just wilt it with steam before plunging it in cold water. I demanded the recipe, but to be honest I just did it by feel and taste. Blanched kale (I used 3 kinds), Parmesan, walnuts, garlic, and olive oil whizzed in a food processor, tossed with hot pasta. I also threw in a small bunch of arugula tops which had bolted. We eat them blanched as well. It was great! Here is the recipe and the Yoga Journal link.

Kale Pesto

4 cups stemmed, chopped black kale (about 1 bunch), blanched and plunged into ice water.
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound fettuccine

Kale is still in season- our greenhouse is full of it, and some are bolting, but in gardens where it didn’t freeze it’s still growing. By the time harlequin beetles are wrecking mine the basil will be up and running. Hey, maybe we should try chard!

Harlequin beetles on Kale! the worst!

Harlequin beetles on Kale! the worst!