Kale Pesto with Dried Mushrooms and Rosemary

Kale Pesto with Dried Mushrooms and Rosemary
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pesto and pasta
Pesto and pasta, a quick and easy lunch.

With the transition to winter, we start getting that hardy winter crop: kale. Depending on the variety, we’ll make kale chips, or we’ll work it into soups, beans, or the like, which is a shame, since kale is one of those super vegetables that packs in more nutrients per calorie than just about anything else. That’s about to change with this recipe. Here, kale is the star and all the other ingredients are merely supporting players.

We found this recipe in the book Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison, and have waited until kale appeared in our CSA shares to try it out. For this first foray into the world of kale pesto, we decided to try it tossed with pasta. It’s a simple recipe that allows us to get a real feel for the flavors of the kale pesto and how we might change them up in the future.

Makes about 1 cup.

Kale Pesto with Dried Mushrooms and Rosemary

Kale Pesto with Dried Mushrooms and Rosemary


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 3-4 onion slices
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary (2 tsp fresh rosemary, preferred)
  • 4 cups packed kale, coarsely chopped and stems removed
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing, if needed

Abbreviated Instructions

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and rosemary. Cook until onions are tender.

Add kale, mushrooms, and several tablespoons of the mushroom liquid. Cook over medium-high until everything is tender.

Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, adding oil as necessary.

Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.


Ingredient discussion:

Sure, dried porcini mushrooms are pricey, if you buy them in those teeny bags at the supermarket. For your best deals, head online and pick them up by the pound, especially if you like mushrooms. For us, a pound lasts about a year, which makes buying in bulk a great bargain. We had to use dried rosemary for this — it was all we had — so we worried about being jabbed in the gum by a bit of dried rosemary. If you have fresh rosemary, absolutely, positively, use that.

Procedure in detail:

frying onions and garlic
Since everything’s going through the food processor later, no need to mince; just fry.

Fry onion, garlic, and rosemary. Simply start heating up the olive oil in a medium-size skillet. When hot, drop in the onion, garlic, and rosemary and let them sizzle, stirring occasionally, until the onion is beginning to get tender, about 5 minutes.

adding kale.
Our first kale of the season was baby kale, eliminating the need for removing stems. With larger kale, stem removal is a must.

Add kale and mushrooms. Now that the onion is tender, add the kale, mushrooms, 1/4 tsp of salt, and some of that reserved mushroom broth — not too much; a couple of tablespoons should do it. Plus, you can add more later, if needed. Let everything cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.

kale pest being made
Once everything is nice and tender, it’s just whirr, whirr, whirr.

Process. Transfer everything to the bowl of a food processor and whirr until smooth. For us that took, oh, probably a minute to 90 seconds, not including the time we stopped to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. If needed, pour in a bit more olive oil to make a smooth paste.

finished kale pesto
Once smooth, give it a taste. Add salt and pepper as needed, and pulse to combine.

Adjust seasonings. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed, then pulse to combine.

kale pesto
This recipe makes about a cup of pesto, enough for several (two-person) meals.

Store and serve. Basically, use it the same way you’d use basil pesto.

We had ours stirred into a bowl of rotini. We figured that starting with something neutral, like pasta,  would be a great way to see how this pesto tastes. It’s very good as it stands, and works very well with pasta. It would also make a nice little appetizer spread on bread, topped with Parmesan cheese, and run under the broiler. Of course, it doesn’t taste like basil pesto; instead, it’s a bit sweet from the kale, with a nice earthy taste from the mushrooms and rosemary — it reminded one of us of sage, which would pair very nicely with sides for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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