If you can believe it, I didn’t eat a single piece of chocolate this Easter…not one mini egg….shocking and disgraceful I know…I did however consume quite a lot of cake and chocolate strawberry tart to make up for that fact, so I’ve been feeling the need for something a little healthier, a little more green…maybe even some (gasp!) kale…Kale blitzed up with pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese into pesto that is.This is a meal that I make fairly regularly, it is tasty, filling and healthy, and packs in a lot of kale, with extra veg in the form of mushrooms. I serve it topped with pangrattato, which is crispy fried seasoned breadcrumbs. It is often known as poor man’s parmesan, as it provides plenty of flavour and texture to dishes without the expense of parmesan. They can be seasoned with anything from simple salt and pepper, to herbs, anchovies, lemon or olives; here I just use salt, pepper and oregano, but for a zingy twist I sometimes add a grating of lemon zest to the pangrattato, and a squeeze of juice to the pesto.
The dish is pretty quick and simple to make, it shouldn’t take longer than half an hour, which is one reason why I make it regularly, I love a quick but tasty meal! You do need a food processor to make the pesto though, although a stick blender should work just as well. I love how quick it is to make your own pesto, you just stick everything in the food processor, give it a quick blitz and it’s done! It is also very customisable, you can vary what nuts you use – toasted walnuts and pistachios would both work well, swap the kale for spinach, and you can chuck in any herbs (fresh or dried) you feel like (or have to hand). You can even make it minus the cheese if you like… but in that case I’m afraid we can no longer be friends… Although pesto isn’t generally cooked, when I make it with kale I do like to cook it for a few minutes before I add the pasta, as raw kale can be a little bitter.
On another note, I am so happy that Spring is here and the clocks have gone forward (I’ve finally managed to catch up, it takes me a while to get used to the time change)…I left the house without a coat! I took these photos after 4.30pm! There was still sunlight! Joy!
- 400g (14 oz) spaghetti
- 400g (14 oz) mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 130g (4.5 oz) stale white bread or breadcrumbs
- 30g (2 tbsp) butter
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 75g (3 oz) pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 200g (7 oz) kale, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp (or more) olive oil
- handful fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 100g (3.5 oz) parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet. Drain, reserving the cooking water.
- To make the pangrattato, if you are making your own breadcrumbs, blitz the stale bread in a food processor until it forms rough breadcrumbs. Heat the butter in a large frying pan, stir in the breadcrumbs, oregano and a generous grinding of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, until the crumbs are golden and crispy; remove from the heat and set aside.
- Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, add the mushrooms and cook until tender and the juices have evaporated.
- While the mushrooms are cooking, gently toast the pine nuts in a heavy bottomed frying pan then add them to a food processor along with the garlic, kale, olive oil, basil, oregano and a generous amount of seasoning.
- Blitz until it forms a thick paste, adding more oil as necessary (I like to use the minimum amount of oil and then thin it out with pasta cooking water). Add the pesto to the mushrooms in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and stir in the parmesan.
- Add a couple of ladlefuls of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pesto mixture until it forms a saucy consistency, mix in the cooked spaghetti and check the seasoning.
- Serve with a generous sprinkling of the pangrattato.