Weeknight Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Kale


In a past life as a personal chef, I would make this recipe for a client almost every week. He couldn’t consume anything acidic (onions, garlic, vinegar, etc) so I was always searching for ways to get a lot of flavor into a dish without falling back on those ingredients. You can add onions, garlic and/or vinegar but I think this dish is good without them too. And it’s one of those recipes that you can vary in SO many ways:

  • Pasta: I used fusilli but but you can use just about anything (if you make the sauce chunky, I think a short pasta would work best; if you puree the sauce, long, thin pasta would also work).
  • Nuts: I like the combination of walnuts and pine nuts but you can use just walnuts or try a different combination of your choice.
  • Herbs: I always used parsley in the past but I think basil or chives would be great too
  • Cheese: I like the way Pecorino stands up to the flavor of the walnuts but I think Parmesan or even goat cheese would be great.
  • Greens: don’t limit yourself to just kale – arugula, collards or chard would also be great. For tender greens, you can fold them right into the hot pasta without cooking them first.
  • Optional items: saute a little garlic with the kale and then deglaze the pan with a little white wine; finish with a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar; add caramelized onions.

Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Kale
makes 4-6 servings


  • 1 pound pasta of choice (I used fusilli)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces kale, destemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Cook pasta according to packing instructions and drain. Set aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12″ traditional skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kale and saute, stirring frequently, until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Clean out the skillet used for the kale and dry. Return to the stovetop and toast walnuts over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large cutting board. Toast the pine nuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the cutting board. At this point, you can either chop the nuts finely by hand or transfer 3/4 to a food processor and process until finely ground; roughly chop the remaining nuts for added texture. Transfer nuts to the bowl with the kale.
  • Add the parsley, butter, olive oil and cheese to the bowl with the kale and nuts and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Mix with pasta and serve.


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