Vegan Kale Pesto
This rich and creamy vegan cavolo nero pesto comes together in under 20 minutes and can be made with whichever greens you have in the fridge - including chard, curly kale and spinach. The walnuts can also be subbed for pistachios, cashews or brazil nuts and the plant based milk can be left out entirely and subbed with the water the pasta is cooked in. Basically, this pesto is endlessly riffable and will turn out well with (almost) anything you throw at it.
Cavolo nero has a very distinct flavour (strong and rich) and texture (both sturdy and tender), so if you are substituting it with a different green, make sure you adjust the process to suit it and taste as you go. Spinach will only require a minute or so of cooking before becoming soft, whereas chard and curly cake only require around 2-3 minutes. If using different greens, it’s also a good idea to check the consistency of the pesto before adding the 60ml of cooking water. Spinach and chard will most likely not require it as it will have absorbed a lot more water than cavolo nero in the cooking process, whereas curly kale will only require 20-30ml of it.
300g cavolo nero, stems removed
5g nutritional yeast
60ml plant based milk
¼ tsp salt
½ lemon, juiced
50ml olive oil
Add the walnuts to a pan set over medium heat. Toast the walnuts, stirring often, for 10-12 minutes - until fragrant.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cavolo nero and cook it for 3-4 minutes, until it has softened.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the cavolo nero from the boiling water and to place it into a colander set over the sink. Leave the pot of water boiling over the stove, and once it reaches a boil again, add the pasta to it.
Let the cavolo nero cool for a couple minutes, then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as possible.
Add the cavolo nero to a blender (or a very high powered food processor), along with the walnuts, nutritional yeast, plant based milk, salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Blend the ingredients together for 4-5 minutes, until creamy.
Remove around 60ml of cooking water from the pot the pasta is cooking in and add it to the blender. Blend again until the pesto is completely smooth, creamy and velvety. Taste for seasoning and adjust - adding more salt or lemon juice to taste.
Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 50ml of cooking water and then drain the pasta. Add the pasta back into the pot along with the kale pesto.
Stir the pesto into the pasta over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is completely coated and glossy. If the pasta and sauce feel too thick, stir in the reserved cooking water.
Serve the pasta with an extra drizzle of olive oil, black pepper and vegan parmesan (optional).
by Valentina Concordia
Valentina is our Food Editor, who dreams up our tasty dishes and recipes for our social channels. She has loads of experience cooking up a storm in Italian kitchens, so it’s no surprise she can’t live without good-quality olive oil (don’t come between her and her olive oil) and fresh pasta.