Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale Pesto

Sharing a healthy weeknight pasta recipe today: whole wheat spaghetti with kale pesto. It’s a simple dish with loads of flavor from the vibrant pesto. Make it any night of the week for a dinner that’s hearty, comforting, and full of “feel good” ingredients.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale Pesto

Ever since making a commitment at the beginning of the year to eat really nutritious food, I’ve been loving this whole wheat spaghetti with kale pesto. It’s perfect for those nights where you need something simple and healthy, but you want it to be satisfying as well. I’ll usually make a batch of it one night and save the leftovers for a couple meals throughout the week.

I’m using whole wheat spaghetti as my nutritious pasta of choice, but you can really make this with any pasta you’d like. Same goes for adding in vegetables…lots of options here. I caramelized some mushrooms right before tossing everything together. You could either omit these entirely, or mix it up with butternut squash, fennel, or even brussels sprouts.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale Pesto

the star of the dish: kale pesto…

I’m using my favorite Cuisinart Stainless Steel 13-Cup Food Processor to make this kale pesto come together effortlessly. The bowl of the processor is nice and large so that you can easily double this recipe if cooking for a larger crowd. The parts are removable and easy to clean as well (I just rinse the bowl out and wash it right in the dishwasher).

The pesto is full of sautéed kale, garlic, toasted walnuts, parmesan, capers, lemon, balsamic, crushed red pepper, and olive oil. There’s definitely no lack of flavor. It’s bright, nutty, and a little tangy from the capers. All of the ingredients get pulsed in the Cuisinart food processor until very finely minced. There’s less olive oil than a typical pesto because we’re using the starchy pasta water when combining the pasta and pesto, creating a slightly creamy consistency and bringing the sauce together.

Garnish the spaghetti with some fresh basil and a little bit more parmesan cheese, and you’re good to go!


Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale Pesto

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whole wheat spaghetti with a healthy, flavorful kale pesto, topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese

servings: 2-4

  • Author: Kayla Howey


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small bunch kale, stemmed + thinly sliced (about 6 oz)
  • kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (about 1 ½ oz)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ lb whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 lb shiitake or cremini mushrooms, sliced (optional)*
  • garnish: fresh basil leaves & parmesan cheese


  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the kale and a good pinch of salt. Let cook for a couple of minutes until the kale is tender. Stir in the garlic and lemon zest. Cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  2. Add the kale to a food processor, along with the walnuts, parmesan, basil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, capers, crushed red pepper, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Pulse until very finely minced (the pesto should have a “roughly smooth” consistency).
  3. Drop the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Stir well and cook for a minute shorter than the package’s instructions. Right before draining, reserve a ½ cup of the pasta water.
  4. Meanwhile, add a little bit more olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until caramelized and tender, stirring often. Season with a pinch of salt.
  5. Add the drained spaghetti to the skillet, along with the reserved pasta water and pesto. Stir well and allow to cook for a couple of minutes as the sauce comes together. Serve immediately with fresh basil and parmesan cheese on top.


*This pasta can easily be made without the mushrooms if you’d like. Just skip step 4 and move on to step 5. Or, you can substitute any other vegetable you like. Diced butternut squash, sliced fennel, and sliced brussels sprouts would all be great options.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale Pesto

[This post is sponsored by Cuisinart. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands I love!]

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