It’s probably clear by now that I really enjoy eating vegetables. I feel no need to sneak them into foods, à la Jessica Seinfeld—I’m plenty happy to have them front and center in all their vegetal glory.

That said, it turns out that boiled and pulverized kale makes a mighty fine pesto when spread surreptitiously onto pasta. It just tastes bright, and garlicky, and lemony, without a hint that it’s a dreaded healthy green substance. It also whips up beautifully quickly—dinner can be on the table in just a minute or so more than it takes the pasta to cook.

Vegetables? Where?

The original recipe called for roasted butternut squash, but I had forgotten to pick up a squash, and it turned out to be for the best: I was ravenous when I made this and would not have wanted to take the time to hack up the squash and then roast it for half an hour. Instead, I rinsed, drained, and dried a can of chickpeas and stuck them in the oven for about 15 minutes while the water boiled and the pasta cooked. Ideally, they would have roasted for about 30 minutes total to achieve maximum crunch, but even at 15 minutes they were a great accompaniment to the pasta and kale.

Thanks to Annaliesse for sending this recipe my way!

Pasta with kale pesto
Adapted from the New York Times

1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and dried
Olive oil
Salt
1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) lacinato kale, center ribs removed
8 ounces pasta (penne rigate works well)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of one lemon, or more to taste
Grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss chickpeas with olive oil and salt. Roast until 15-30 minutes, until brown and crispy or until everything else is ready to go.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water. Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds. Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water to stop cooking. Bring water in pot back to a boil, adding more if necessary so there is enough to cook pasta. [Part of what makes this recipe so quick is that the water is ready for the pasta almost immediately after the kale is done.]

When water in pot comes back to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions.

In a food processor, pulse together kale, nuts, garlic, salt and lemon zest until mixture is smooth. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a smooth, pesto-like consistency. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice as needed—I found that the pesto needed quite a bit of both.

Drain pasta, reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta with kale pesto and some pasta cooking water if necessary to help it coat pasta. Add cheese, lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve topped with chickpeas and more cheese.

Yield: 3 servings.

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