Recipe: Kale Pesto Pasta

kale pesto ingredients

In summer and early fall, eating healthy gets easier and tastier, thanks to the availability of local produce. The vitamin-packed recipe below is provided by the RWJBarnabas Health Wellness on Wheels mobile greenhouse and cooking school, which travels around the state to provide free nutrition education and demonstrations to local neighborhoods.


  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 box (13.5 ounces) whole wheat penne pasta
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ pound fresh kale (about ½ of a large bunch)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped


Preheat oven to 400°. Toss cubed butternut squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spread squash out into an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup starchy pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside.

Add pumpkin seeds to a dry medium sauté pan and heat over medium heat for 3–4 minutes to toast. Set aside.

Remove kale leaves from their stems and add to food processor. Discard stems. Add remaining ½ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, toasted pumpkin seeds, Parmesan cheese and garlic to food processor. Pulse until kale is finely chopped and ingredients are well combined. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the remaining ½ cup olive oil until the sauce is smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together pasta, pesto sauce and roasted squash until well combined. Add starchy pasta water to help mix in pesto if necessary.