Roasted Garlic Kale Pesto and Veggie Pasta

This roasted garlic kale pesto pasta is a tasty twist on the classic!

A few easy steps will take this gorgeous green pesto from

This is not your grandma’s pesto.

This is also not one of those “throw it in the food processor and call it pesto” pestos. There will be plenty of that later, but planning out a few easy steps in the beginning will take this green goodness from “Kale?” to “KALE YEAH!”

In other news, I am completely aware of my abuse of that phrase and I hereby vow to never say it again. From this moment forward, there shan’t be a single kale pun on this blog. Well, at least until I forget and fall face first back into bad habits. I’m fairly certain you’ll forgive me when that happens. Just in case, I’ll bring cookies.

Though I’m still crushing fiercely on  my Pistachio Arugula Sweet Pea Pesto, (Try saying that 5x fast!) I needed a kale pesto in my arsenal. It started out as curiosity more than anything else, then blossomed into full blown craving status.

Waiting for my garlic to roast was effortless but excruciating. Whether I’m cooking up several bunches in advance or simply roasting a singular head of garlic for a recipe, the smell drives me up the wall in the best way possible. Who needs an air freshener when you have freshly roasted garlic wafting through your home?

Also, it totally keeps the vampires away. Just call me Buffy the Vampire Kale-r!

Wait, that’s not right…

I think I totally owe you cookies now.

On to the pesto!

Roasted Garlic Kale Pesto and Veggie Pasta

Roasted Garlic Kale Pesto and Veggie Pasta

Yield 2-4 servings

This roasted garlic kale pesto pasta is a tasty twist on the classic!


  • 3 cups massaged kale, packed
  • 1/3 cup quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 or 1/3 cup walnuts (toast them)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 head of roasted garlic (approx 6 cloves)
  • salt, to taste (don't skip, but season to taste)
  • pinch of black pepper, if desired
  • For a saucier sauce, simply add a little extra EVOO to your pesto. Easy peasy! Garlic obsessed? Feel free to sneak a few extra cloves into the mix!
  • 4-8 oz pasta (choose one with ridges + grooves!)
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-5 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 2-4 oz cheese (I used mozzarella + parmesan)
  • Tools Needed: a food processor, blender, or a good ole mortar and pestle!


  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F
  3. Grab an entire bulb of garlic and slice a little less than ¼ of the top off, just enough to expose the cloves.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and seal into a pinched pouch of aluminum foil.
  5. Roast for about 40 minutes, depending on your oven and patience. Once the house starts to smell like heaven, resist the urge to dive in to the oven and spread the entire thing on toast. Better yet, roast a second bulb so you can do exactly that!
  6. Alternatively, you can roast the garlic ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to four days, and simply whip this up whenever your ready for some serious dippage. I typically roast a few bulbs at once and use the golden cloves in recipes throughout the week.
  7. Once your garlic is ready, the cloves should practically be bursting from the bulb. I used about half the bulb (6 cloves) but feel free to add extra garlic to taste.
  8. Combine all the above pesto ingredients in your blender or food processor of choice and blend until creamy and dreamy! Since everyone's perfect pesto varies, feel free to adjust seasoning to taste as well as the liquid to veggie ratio, an extra drizzle or two of olive oil can thin the sauce as desired. I usually snag a piece of crusty bread and dunk as I taste test, it's glorious!
  10. Bring a large non-stick pan to medium heat and saute the mushrooms and spinach in a teeny drizzle of your favorite healthy oil.
  11. While your vegetables cook, boil your pasta in a medium pot per the box's instructions.
  12. Drain, return to pot, stir in pesto.
  13. Add your veggies and cheese then stir baby stir!
  14. Spoon into bowls or pile onto plates and garnish with a little extra freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  15. Serve immediately.


recipe serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side

substitutions and such

If your herb garden runneth over, feel free to replace a cup of kale with fresh basi or combine the two! You can even blanch it before blending to keep that gorgeous green hue and prevent browning. I refuse to shell out $4 for a small bunch of basil at the grocery store, hence my delightful experimentation with kale glorious kale. Pine nuts work in place of walnuts if you prefer and you could also leave out the parmesan for a vegan pesto. If you do so, simply taste as you go, since you’ll want to add extra spices to make up for the buttery, nutty, salty elements in the cheese that you’re leaving out. Some swear by adding nutritional yeast while others amplify other elements. Oh She Glows has a Vegan Oil-Free Pesto recipe that looks pretty darn good!

A few easy steps will take this gorgeous green pesto from

so. . . how was it!?

Fantastic! Massaging the kale first not only tenderizes the sturdy leaves, it also takes out the bitterness that kale is often associated with. It’s a total kale makeover! This leafy green powerhouse is in season during colder months; so if you haven’t tried massaged kale, now is the perfect time to try it!

The buttery walnuts and roasted garlic adds the most delicious flavor to the pesto. This flavor-packed roasted garlic kale pesto is nutty, garlicky, and has just the right amount of cheesiness to keep you coming back for more! YES PLEASE!

crazy for kale?

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  • I’m cracking up about the Buffy line! I even just read it out loud to the whole family who looked at me like I was nuts. But that was my favorite show back in the day! So much so that I woke my dad up in the middle of the night after watching the episode where she died to tell him with tears running down my face (this is of course, after I went out to the club and watched it on “tape”). And, all he said was “she’ll come back next year.” Who knew he’d be right? Anyway, in all seriousness, this is a “kale-r” dish! Love all these flavors and I could totally make this gluten-free for my husband. Love it! 🙂

    • Would it be wrong for us to re-watch the entire series? I so want to! Maybe it’s on Netflix? Hulu? Amazon? Dear god let it be somewhere!!! <----yeah I totes have a problem 😉 This sauciness would rock over some gluten free pasta! I found a rice + quinoa based one recently that I adoooore! Thanks Sherri!

  • I’m licking my screen right now. This looks so yummy.

    • Jenn

      Haha thanks so much Celeste! <3

  • KALE PESTO? I think I just fell in love! This looks delicious!

  • This is what (my) dreams are made of…

  • I love massaged kale in salads and so love this idea of using it to make a pesto! Pesto makes everything better! I’ll be putting this on pasta, sandwiches, wraps, probably even some eggs. Deliciousness all around!

  • Lindsay @ A Runnaroundd Life

    Holy yum! You mentioned using a pasta with ridges and grooves, but do you think shells will work with the one? That’s what I’ve got in my pantry right now 🙂

    • Jenn

      Yes! The shells usually hold sauce pretty well since they have good texture! 🙂 Hope you looove it!

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