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Kale Pesto Pasta

Twirly noodles tossed in a five-minute kale pesto, tender chicken meatballs, and plenty of nutty parmesan are the makings of our new favorite throw-it-together weeknight meal – Kale Pesto Pasta. Just because it's winter, doesn't mean we have to leave homemade pesto behind. Swapping out hearty wintery kale for a portion of the pesto brings a little seasonal aspect to our pesto and using crunchy almonds instead of pine nuts make this easy meal pocket-friendly as well. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword pesto pasta, kale pesto, kale pesto pasta, kale and basil pesto
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 780kcal
Author Nicole
Cost $25


  • Food processor
  • large pot


  • 3 cups packed kale, stems remove and massaged
  • 1 cup basil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (heaping), plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (you can also use almonds, walnuts or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 24 chicken meatballs
  • 16 oz pappardelle
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup starchy pasta water


  • Fill a large pot with 1/2 cup water. Add frozen chicken meatballs. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 9 minutes. Remove meatballs from the pot and drain water. Set aside.
  • Fill the same pot with water. Bring to a rolling boil. Season with salt.
  • While the water comes to a boil, massage the kale. Add the kale, basil, parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, pistachios, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a food processor. Blend until mostly smooth a few bits of texture. See photo. If needed scrape the sides down witha spatula and blend again.
  • With the mixer on drizzle in the oil. Scrape the sides downs and blend again until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • When the water comes to a boil, drop the pasta into the water. Cook until just under aldente. When the pasta has cooked, use a liquid measuring cup to take out 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside. Drain the pasta.
  • Add the pasta back to the pot along with the pesto, ½ cup of pasta water, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use tongs to toss the pasta with the pesto. Add the meatballs. Toss again. If needed add more pasta water to loosen the sauce up. (I ended up using all of it.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parmesan cheese.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 780kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 172mg | Sodium: 566mg | Potassium: 1052mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 5522IU | Vitamin C: 65mg | Calcium: 215mg | Iron: 4mg