If you have grown weary of kale salad – the darling of so many food blogs this summer – allow me to propose a variation. As basil dwindles, consider lopping off kale and collards and blending them into pesto with a kick of smoky sheep’s milk cheese.
Food blogger turned author Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic offers this suggestion in his new book, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, written with Stephanie Stiavetti. Just when I thought that pairing pasta and cheese had been done to death in cookbooks, this duo skipped into the world with dazzling new combos, including a mac recipe made with Red Hawk and raspberry jam. Snazzz-y!
I fell for the leafy greens pesto because the recipe seemed perfect for packing into fall lunches. And it was. I zooted it together one morning in the pre-dawn light, and it was ready before my coffee. Pecans – used in place of pine nuts – gave the pesto some sweetness, and the sea-dark color of the kale made for a vibrant paste that retained its green-ness. (You know how basil pesto turns brown? This one does not!)
In Melt, the authors recommend a number of cheeses that can be whirled into this recipe, from Pecorino Romano to Paski Sir. Since I’m a fan of Fiore Sardo – thanks to Di Bruno monger Ian Peacock (who has this cheese tattooed on his chest) – I couldn’t resist adding it to this pesto. Lightly smoked over balsa wood, this sheep’s milk hunk is woodsy and sweet-salty with enough rich body to offset hardy greens.
If you pick up a copy of Melt, you’ll find the original version of this recipe on page 105, where it’s listed as “Bianco Sardo with Collard Greens and Penne.” The authors suggested using collards or kale, so I used Lacinato Kale (also called Dinosaur Kale), which originated in Tuscany and is easier to chop than the curly variety.
Spooned over penne or slathered onto toasted baguette, this pesto helps carry healthy greens into the next season. And it looks and tastes like an Emerald City.
Kale Pesto with Fiore Sardo
Adapted from the Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord
- 4 ounces kale or collard greens (about four large leaves), roughly chopped
- 4 ounces pecans (about 1 cup)
- 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
- 7 ounces Fiore Sardo, or other firm sheep’s milk cheese (a scant 2 cups, grated)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 16 ounces/1 box penne (whole wheat works well)
- Combine kale, pecans, garlic, cheese, sea salt, and pepper in a food processor or sturdy blender. Drizzle olive oil into the mix as you combine all of the ingredients on high speed.
- Cook the pasta in salted water, according to the instructions on the label.
- Toss the pasta with the pesto, adding extra olive oil if you wish. If you have leftover cheese or nuts, sprinkle them on top.
Note: This pesto has a very slight bitterness to it because of the kale. To add sweetness, try serving it alongside bbq-glazed chicken breasts, or toss it with sundried tomatoes and Kalamata olives.
For more recipe ideas, please visit Madame Fromage.