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September 11 2013 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Pasta,Recipe,Salad » 8 comments

Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

On the cusp of a new season, I’m usually pushing ahead to the next one, eager to flip the page, like Avery zipping through her board books.  Spring has its obvious lure out of winter, ushering in light and warmth and new growth and asparagus (!).  But autumn normally has an equally compelling pull for me, all fresh, new, and crisp, not to mention its gourds and apples.

Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

But this year, as Labor Day has come and gone, and as August has slid into September, I don’t feel that same pull.  Maybe it’s that this was our first full summer with Avery.  Maybe it’s that this summer has been so good.  Maybe it’s that I’m fearful of the unknown—I haven’t lived an autumn or a rainy winter in Seattle yet, and I don’t know what to expect.  Whatever it is, I’m just not ready to move on.

Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

Last week did not comply with my feelings.  Our wake-up calls were noticeably darker and the sun was setting while we cooked dinner, rather than when we ate it.  The mornings were fogged over and most of the afternoons were gray and wet.  Was this Seattle’s autumn, a not-as-pleasant version of the season as the midwestern ones that I know and love?  And it was so awfully sudden: August was up, summer was over.  It got me down, and I didn’t have much of an urge to cook.  Summer produce seemed all wrong, but fall’s comfort fare felt too soon.

Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

But!  The weekend arrived and Seattle began to spoil us again with pitch-perfect sunshine-y days (or sunny afternoons and early evenings, at least).  It’s lasted through to this week, and it’s felt like such a gift.  I’m really trying to savor it all.

Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

In the kitchen, that’s meant more summer produce, and—especially—more tomatoes (surprise, surprise).  Here, they were scattered, along with bits of mozzarella, into a pasta salad dressed with a kale-basil pesto.  We ate it on the porch, pesto smeared across Avery’s face.  There might have been football on in the background, but it still felt like summer.

Kale-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup walnuts
kosher salt
1 small bunch lacinato or Tuscan kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette
1/2 cup loosely packed basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese
1  pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce container bocconcini, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast walnuts on a tray for 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant.  Remove and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.   Submerge the chopped kale and cook for 1 minute, until the kale is bright green.  Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, lift the kale out of the water and into a colander; reserve the boiling water.  Run the blanched kale under cold water until cool.  Wring out the excess water from the kale and set aside.  Add the pasta to the boiling salted water, and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the cooked kale, toasted walnuts, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice; pulse until a thick paste forms.  With the motor running, stream in the olive oil until you reach desired consistency.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in parmesan.  Season with salt, to taste.

When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the boiling water.  Transfer the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl.  While the pasta is still hot, add the pesto, halved cherry tomatoes and drained bocconcini.  Stir to combine.  If necessary, add the reserved boiling water to loosen the sauce, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or straight from the fridge.

8 comments so far. »
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  1. Alice says on September 11 2013 at 2:39 pm:

    I’ve been having the same feeling about the season but in reverse. Here in Sydney this week in early spring, it was 90 degrees! I’m not ready for summer yet but this dish helps shift my mindset from crumbles and soups to fresh greens and warm breezes. Thanks!

  2. Tracey says on September 11 2013 at 5:08 pm:

    I’m in the same boat – I am holding onto every last minute of summer I can. Today was over 90 degrees for the first time in weeks, and I couldn’t have loved it more!

    Such a gorgeous dish, so colorful and summer. The perfect way to use my late-summer tomatoes!

  3. Debbie says on September 11 2013 at 7:46 pm:

    Boy I have shared your ‘I love fall but I don’t want to say goodbye to our Seattle summer!’ Thankful to have had a few more sunny days. And the pesto salad looks delish!

  4. Rose says on September 12 2013 at 10:16 am:

    This salad made me smile. Very similar to one I made last night with home made pesto. I roasted the cherry tomatoes for a couple of hours. Served with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Fall may be right around the corner but I love the bounty of vegetables available at this time of year.

  5. Kate says on September 15 2013 at 4:44 pm:

    This could be one of those last recipes that mimics Summer, to use up the bounty of tiny tomatoes gracing my counter and lead the way in to real September weather. Fall is gearing up in MN, with glimpses of orange and yellow, flashes of crimson red beginning to show their faces. We just came out of a stint of mid 90′s, sliding right in to Fall weather. I’m getting ready, but holding on. This salad might help.

  6. Trisha says on September 17 2013 at 2:57 am:

    I wish I still had a summer to hold onto! Autumn is well and truly here in Berlin… but I think this pasta is good for any season.. can you freeze this pesto? x

  7. annie @ foodierobots.com says on September 18 2013 at 9:19 am:

    This looks delicious! I’ve been wanting to try my hand at a kale pesto for a while now and this looks like a great place to start. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on September 18 2013 at 4:56 pm:

    Alice: As excited as I get for summer every year, it is tough to say goodbye to that heartier comfort food!

    Tracey: Thanks!

    Debbie: It was such a lovely summer here.

    Rose: Oh, I like the idea of roasting the tomatoes!

    Kate: We were in MN over the weekend and there was a definite (and wonderful) fall chill in the air. I think I can finally say I’m ready.

    Trisha: Good question! Yes. I froze some and it thawed like a dream. Pesto’s good for that.

    Annie: I hope you try it!

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