This kale pasta sauce is so delicious you’ll forget that you’re basically just eating kale. It’s earthy, without tasting too green. Savoury, smooth, and almost creamy. Plus, it’s really easy and quick to whip up. Perfect for getting in your greens while enjoying pasta!
How It’s Made:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil – you’re going to use this same water to cook both the kale and the pasta. While the water is coming to a boil, destem your washed kale leaves. Pack them into a measuring cup until you get two cups of packed kale. You’re looking to keep the kale leaves mostly intact because it will make removing them from the pot without draining the water easier. Next, peel a garlic clove and place the kale and garlic into the boiling water. Let them cook for 4-5 minutes before removing from the pot with tongs.
Don’t drain the water when removing the garlic and kale. You’re going to add the pasta to it now and cook following the package instructions. If the water has stopped boiling, you can bring it back to a boil before adding the pasta.
Back to the sauce: If you have a blender that can handle hot ingredients, you can put the kale and garlic straight in. My blender can’t blend hot food because it’s a sealed blender, so I run cold water over the kale and garlic before putting it in the blender. Either way you go, your kale is going to be wet – that’s fine, give it a little shake, but you don’t need to dry it off. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt to the blender and blend until you achieve a vibrant, smooth sauce. A good blender is key for a silky smooth sauce! I use a little Ninja blender from Costco, which works surprisingly well for its size. If you need to add more liquid to blend, you can, but at this point you want to use as little liquid as possible to create a fairly thick sauce.
Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve a cup of the pasta water (AKA liquid gold), this is what we’ll use to thin out the sauce because the starchy pasta water will help make a more fluid sauce, without being too liquidy. You almost certainly won’t need a cup of the pasta water, but it’s better to have too much than not enough.
Drain the rest of the pasta water and mix the sauce with the pasta in the pot. If you want to loosen the sauce, mix in some of the pasta water, little by little, until you achieve your desired texture. Serve it up and enjoy!
What kind of kale should you use?
I like to use lacinato kale (also called dino kale and Tuscan kale) because the leaves are more tender and less fibrous, making the final sauce a smoother consistency. However, pretty much any kind of kale leaf will do in a pinch! Just make sure you remove the main stem and any large veins from the leaves before cooking.
What is nutritional yeast and do I need it?
Yes! I mean, you can try it without, but it won’t be as good. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that adds a cheesy, umami flavour to foods. It is also a source of plant-based protein and vitamin b12!
Can I make the sauce in advance?
I wouldn’t recommend it. Because we’re only two people, I usually make a full batch of sauce and a half batch of pasta, leaving us with leftover sauce. The sauce can definitely be eaten a day or two later, but it’s not AS good and it’s also less vibrant.
I don’t have penne.
Feel free to use a different pasta! You’ll need 4 servings.
Kale Pasta Sauce
This kale pasta sauce is so delicious you’ll forget that you’re basically just eating kale. It’s earthy, without tasting too green. Savoury, smooth, and almost creamy.
- 2 cups kale leaves (packed)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt (plus more for pasta water)
- 4 cups penne pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water is boiling, remove the stem and any large veins from your kale leaves. Peel the garlic clove and cut off any rough end.
Once the water is boiling, add 2 cups of packed kale leaves and the garlic clove into the water. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
Remove the kale and garlic from the water using tongs, but don’t drain the water in the pot - you’ll use it to cook the pasta.
Add 4 cups of penne pasta to the boiling water and cook to package instructions.
Add the kale and garlic to a blender. If you’re using a blender that is not made for hot ingredients, cool the kale leaves with cold water before adding them to the blender.
While the pasta is cooking, add the juice of one lemon, olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt to the blender with the kale and garlic. Blend until you have a smooth vibrant green sauce. You can add a small amount of water if necessary to blend.
Once the pasta is done, reserve some of the pasta water and drain the rest.
Mix the sauce together with the pasta. Optional: gradually add in a little of the reserved pasta water until you reach your desired sauce texture.
Serve and enjoy! This recipe makes 2-4 servings, depending on your appetite and sides.
*You can use another type of pasta. You’ll need 4 servings.
*I would not recommend making the sauce in advance, it will lose some vibrance and not taste quite as fresh.
Shout out to Joshua McFadden’s kale sauce in the New York Times (originally from his cookbook, Six Seasons) that inspired this recipe. It sounded so delicious that I needed to replicate it with a plant-based spin.
If you make this vegan kale pasta sauce, be sure to tag me on Instagram and leave a review below!
And if you want more kale recipes in your life, check out this white bean + kale soup! It’s also a super easy and tasty meal.