Need a fresh weeknight dinner idea? I suggest this bright and tasty Kale and Parsley Pesto!

This time of year always finds me in a dinner rut. Spring has sprung, and I’m ready to move on from casseroles and comfort food. I want fresh vegetables! But up here in New England (where I live) there is still some wait time before the real summer produce hits. So what to make in between seasons that will still satisfy my craving for green stuff, AND be devoured by the kids? I think it’s this.

It has something for everyone. At heart this is good old pasta with plenty of cheese, but there’s also a good dose of kale and parsley, and the garlic brings a little excitement. You can replace the pine nuts with walnuts, or omit the nuts entirely. Spaghetti is great, but this also works with any pasta shape you like.

Bonus – with just a little bit of love, plain old peas become a side dish to get excited about. These are both quick too, so you can easily pull the whole meal off before (or after) little league, ballet, swimming, or whatever you’ve got going on this week.

If you’re like me, you’ll want some crusty bread and butter to go on the side. So good.

Kale Parsley Pesto Pasta (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb spaghetti (or other pasta shape)
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 1/2 cup curly or flat leaf parsley, stems removed
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves depending on how you feel about garlic
  • 1 cup good grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts (or sub walnuts, or omit nuts altogether, it’s up to you)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • quick squeeze of lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once it starts to boil, add about a tablespoon of salt, then the pasta.
  2. While the pasta cooks, combine the rest of ingredients except oil in the bowl of a food processor
  3. Begin to blend everything on high speed, then slowly drizzle the oil in a steady stream until it’s all been added and the mixture blends completely. It should be like a smooth paste.
  4. Give it a taste and add salt and/or pepper if necessary.
  5. You should have about 1 1/2 cups pesto.
  6. When the pasta is ready, use a ladle to reserve about a 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Set aside.
  7. Drain the pasta and return to the cooking pot.
  8. Start by adding about 1/2 cup of the pesto and the reserved cooking water to the pot and toss with tongs or two forks to combine.
  9. Add more pesto a bit at a time until you get the noodle coverage you’re looking for.
  10. I usually end up adding just about a cup of pesto per pound of pasta.

Serve with extra grated parmesan for sprinkling!

Lemon Garlic Peas

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil or butter in a medium saute or sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. When the butter is melted or the oil is shimmery, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two until it’s very fragrant but not browning.
  3. Add the peas, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook, stirring gently, until the peas are bright green.
  4. If you’re starting with fresh peas this will just take 2-3 minutes. If you’re starting with frozen it will take a bit longer.