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.