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Rigatoni with Lemony Kale-and-Pecorino Pesto

Making pesto with kale instead of basil isn't just healthier, it's unexpectedly delicious. And according to the dish's creator, chef Chris Cosentino, it's a simple way to get kids to eat kale.

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4 to 6

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  • 1 1/2 pounds Tuscan kale, stemmed
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Toscano cheese, coarsely grated (1/2 cup), plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Bring 2 large pots of generously salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the kale to one of the pots and cook for 1 minute, until bright green and just tender. Drain and immediately transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again. Transfer the kale to a work surface with some water clinging to the leaves and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, add the rigatoni to the other pot of boiling water. Cook until almost al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  3. Transfer the kale to a blender. Add the garlic and pine nuts and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and process until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and stir in the 1/2 cup of Pecorino and the lemon zest. Season to taste with the Aleppo pepper, salt and black pepper.
  4. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the pesto and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, adding some of the pasta water if it seems dry. Spoon the pasta into bowls, top with additional cheese and Aleppo pepper and serve.
Contributed By Photo © Fredrika Stjarne Published July 2014

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