The title of this post might have you saying “What? No…”, but hopefully looking at the pictures, this Kale Pesto recipe with Black Olives and Capers will have you saying “Okay… MAYBE”.
But I promise you there is no MAYBE about it. This recipe is a must-try if you like to optimize healthy ingredients and enjoy unique textures in a meal. Or even if you don’t care about how healthy it is but love tasty dishes, this is for you too. The unusual pairing of pesto made with kale along with the black olives and briny capers is over-the-top with complex flavor plus is chock full of freshness. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making it at the start of your week to have on hand for quick lunches or versatile side dishes. At least that’s what I’ve been doing since experimenting, and finally perfecting, the recipe because the finished dish tastes A-mazing!
First let’s talk about the pesto which is the base for this recipe – Kale is a bit tough and chewy when it’s fresh. So after separating the kale leaves from the spiny ribs, I boiled the kale for about a minute and then rolled it in paper towels to squeeze out excess moisture. The kale was now soft enough to process with toasted walnuts, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
Next, pesto needs a nice pasta to adhere to. Linguine is the perfect pasta for the job and I highly recommend whole-wheat linguine. If you haven’t tried whole-wheat pasta, now is the time. It’s more robust and nutty tasting than basic semolina pasta (gluten-free pasta is fabulous here as well).
Once you have your pesto made and the pasta ready, it’s time to open your mind because some of the next ingredients seem a bit strange in combination. Black olives, capers, carmelized shallots and Romano cheese get mixed in. I add A LOT of olives and capers, you can add as much or as little as you desire. But my taste-testers agreed that more was better here. Next, mix in the Romano cheese. Again add as much or as little as you like and this step can be omitted for a great vegan or dairy-free dish.
The final step might surprise you but I promise you’ll be delighted once you taste it… Add unsweetened chocolate shavings for a healthy, earthiness that everyone will love. I have used unsweetened baker’s chocolate, 90% dark chocolate and even powerful cacao nibs. The bitter notes in the chocolate are subtle and we all know how chocolate is great for our health, or for our mood at the very least.
The pesto is bright and nutty and the black olives and capers add a nice briny flavor, not to mention a nice dense texture. Carmelized shallots are sweet, adding the perfect balance to the sharp Romano cheese.
Seriously, this bite is making me want more right now…
I have served this dish with chicken and also salmon. We prefer it hot, but it makes a tasty cold dish too. I hope you’ll try Kale Pesto with Black Olives and Capers – and don’t leave out the chocolate! You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
- 1 bunch fresh kale, separated from ribs and rough chopped (about 6 cups loose)
- ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more to taste
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¾ cup walnuts, rough chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 medium shallot, sliced into thin strips
- 3.5 oz. jar capers, drained and rinsed (about ½ cup), more if desired
- 1 full size can (6 oz.) California black olives, drained and halved
- 13 oz. whole wheat linguine
- 4 oz. Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Unsweetened chocolate or cacao
- Start a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta at the same time you start a medium sauce pan of salted water to boil for the kale.
- While the water is heating, remove the kale leaves from the spiny ribs and rough chop into large chunks. Eyeball the amount till you have about 5-6 cups of loosely packed leaves.
- Once the water for the kale starts to boil, add the kale and boil, stirring occasionally for a good minute. Scoop out about one cup of the water at the end of this step and pour kale into a collander.
- The water for the linguine should be soon ready; boil according to package directions until al dente.
- Take the kale and place in a couple layers of paper towels; wrap the kale and press well to remove almost all excess moisture. Place the kale into a food processor. Set aside while preparing other ingredients for the pesto.
- In a small heavy bottom pan, toast the walnuts. This step helps reduce some of the bitter flavor in the walnuts and adds a nice toasty note. Put the walnuts into the food processor with the kale. (Save this pan because you'll use it to carmelize the shallot in a minute.)
- Add the garlic and finely chop with the kale and walnuts and ½ teaspoon salt. With the motor running, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until the pesto is smooth. You might need to stir down the ingredients and pulse several times to get all the ingredients well mixed. The pesto will seem like a thick paste at this point. Set aside.
- Place the shallot in the same pan you cooked the walnuts and let cook until soft and just starting to blacken.
- Now you're ready to put all the ingredients together and this is where exact amounts don't matter:
- In a large bowl, combine the linguine and pesto. Add some of the reserved kale water to help the pesto thin and spread throughout the linguine (If needed, heat the water first to help re-heat the dish to serve hot).
- Add the shallot, capers, halved black olives and toss.
- If adding the Romano cheese, grate about ½ to 1 cup cheese into the linguine and toss. Taste and add more cheese, olives and capers as desired (I like to add enough olives and capers so to get some in every bite).
- Dish into individual bowls and grate more cheese on top. With a sharp knife, cut shavings into the chocolate (or use a microplane or fine grater) and top each serving with the chocolate.
- Refrigerate any leftovers up to 4 days in the refrigerator.