Pasta with Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

Pasta with kale, lemon, and toasted walnuts

Today I’m giving you all a tasty, healthy, easy, family approved and under 30 minute weeknight pasta (whew, that was a mouthful)! I mean who doesn’t love that! This pasta is a basically a cross between my broccoli lemon pasta and lacinato kale salad.  It incorporates the best of both recipes. The pasta literally take no time to put together, (under 30 minutes) thus making it perfect for those busy Meatless Mondays, or any busy weeknight. If you have your kale de-stemmed and ready to go, then this will take even less time.  All you’re basically doing is zesting and juicing a lemon, mincing some garlic, and then sautéing all of the ingredients together while the pasta cooks.  You then toss them all together in one pot and enjoy!

The whole-wheat pasta has a great nutty flavor and is a bit chewy, but chewy in a good way, and the Pecorino Romano cheese adds a bit of salty flavor to the whole-wheat pasta. Oh, and let’s not forget about those toasted walnuts, they add an amazing crunch, flavor and texture to the pasta!

This is a great gateway pasta to get your kids to like kale, as the lemon and garlic disguise the bitter taste of the kale. If you’re kids are not fans of whole-wheat pasta, you can use regular spaghetti, easy peasy! Eli gives this pasta a thumbs up, and look at that big bunch of kale on his fork.

Eli gives the thumbs up to pasta with kale

pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts:

serves 4-6

  • 1 pound whole-wheat, regular or brown rice spaghetti – I prefer bionaturae whole-wheat pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (roughly 4-5 cloves)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced – to see how to de-stem and thinly slice kale click here
  • pinch of sea salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for topping – If you’re using regular pasta you can use Parmesan cheese, but I would suggest using the Pecorino for the whole-wheat version. 
  • 1/4  cup walnuts, toasted and then broken into small pieces

Ingredients for whole wheat spaghetti with kale lemon and toasted walnuts

Let’s start by prepping the ingredients. Toast up the walnuts. To toast them, just put some raw walnuts in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts start to brown and smell toasted, about 5 minutes.  Set them aside.

Wash, de-stem and thinly slice your kale.  If you’re not sure how to de-stem and slice kale then you can check out my post on how to de-stem and thinly slice kale, or you can watch the beginning part of my lacinato kale salad video for instructions as well.  This video has really helped my readers easily understand how to de-stem kale quickly over the sink.

Mince your garlic cloves, and zest and juice your lemon.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and then drain.

Meanwhile, when the pasta has about 5 minutes left to cook, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for approximately 1 minute, or until tender and fragrant.

Add in the sliced kale along with a pinch of sea salt, and cook, tossing and moving the kale around so that it doesn’t burn, as well as making sure that it gets coated in the olive oil and garlic mixture, until wilted and tender, about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add in the lemon zest and juice, and give it all a good toss to combine.

Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.  Add in some of the reserved pasta water to create a thin sauce. This is to taste and you really just want to add enough water so that the pasta isn’t sticking together in clumps.  

Add in the 1/2 cup grated cheese and toss to combine.

Whole wheat pasta combined with kale

Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top each bowl of pasta with the toasted walnuts and the grated cheese.

Pasta with kale, lemon, and toasted walnuts

With love Jackie

Pasta with Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

0 from 0 votes
Recipe by Jackie
Servings

4-6

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cook time

12

minutes
Total time

27

minutes

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound whole-wheat, regular, or brown rice pasta- I prefer bionaturae whole-wheat pasta

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (roughly 4 -5 cloves)

    • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

    • 1 bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced

    • pinch of sea salt

    • zest of 1 lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon)

    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    • ½ cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for topping - If you're using regular pasta you can use Parmesan cheese, but I would suggest using the Pecorino for the whole-wheat version.

    • ¼ cup walnuts, toasted and then broken into small pieces

    Directions

    • Let's start by prepping the ingredients. Toast up the walnuts. To toast them, just put some raw walnuts in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts start to brown and smell toasted, about 5 minutes. Set them aside.

    • Wash, de-stem and thinly slice your kale.

    • Mince your garlic cloves, and zest and juice your lemon.

    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water and then drain.

    • Meanwhile, when the pasta has about 5 minutes left to cook, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for approximately 1 minute, or until tender and fragrant.

    • Add in the sliced kale along with a pinch of sea salt, and cook, tossing and moving the kale around so that it doesn't burn, as well as making sure that it gets coated in the olive oil and garlic mixture, until wilted and tender, about 1-2 minutes.

    • Remove from heat and add in the lemon zest and juice, and give it all a good toss to combine.

    • Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.

    • Add in some of the reserved pasta water to create a thin sauce. This is to taste and you really just want to add enough water so that the pasta isn't sticking together in clumps.

    • Add in the ½ cup grated cheese and toss to combine.

    • Serve the pasta up into individual bowls and top each bowl of pasta with the toasted walnuts and the grated cheese.

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      36 thoughts on “Pasta with Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnuts”

      1. This is a real simple, inexpensive and healthy meal that happens to be filling and delicious. And the best part is that those ingredients are usually in my kitchen. This pasta dish is one of my “go to” meals when I am too tired to cook. Or when there is a good movie on and I do not want to spend time in the kitdhen. Delicious!

        1. Hi Laura! So glad that this is one of your pantry staple pastas as well. I love how simple and fresh it all is! 🙂 xoxo, Jackie

        1. Hi Trina! What a great idea! I should try that. My kids love the walnut pesto I make, so maybe they would like it mixed in with the cheese. I will give that a shot next time. Thanks for the tip 🙂 xoxo, Jackie

          1. We live in Novato – about two blocks from Whole Foods, but I don’t recall seeing it there – will check it again; Paradise isn’t that far away, either.

            Thanks.

            1. Hi Margie! So nice to hear that you’re local! If you can’t find it in the Paradise foods in Novato, let me know, and I will have David get some in the store. 🙂

      2. I love meals like this – really simple but such beautiful flavours! I’ve actually never had kale (it’s not that common in the UK) but I’ll definitely have to try to find some for this – or maybe use spinach instead!

      3. I love all of your kale recipes, you are like the kale goddess! This one is going on my list of recipes to make as well. Love any pasta with nuts on top!

      4. How clever to combine two great recipes and come up with something that sounds healthy AND delicious! Looks so good. Hope you are well. I feel like I don’t get as much of a chance to say hi and chat with you now that I’m back to work, but I always love seeing your name and posts show up in my inbox. Hope you’re doing well! xoxo, Sharon

      5. I just came across your blog and I’m loving it. Your pics are so eye catching. Even though, I’m vegan, I still enjoy your beautiful recipes.

      6. looks delicious, jackie! i’ll try to make this with spinach instead of kale, as there is no kale to be found here in central europe (can you believe it?!? i miss it so much!).
        also: operation DIY pumpkin puree is happening tonight…. hopefully i’ll be on my way to a sheet cake 😉

        1. Hi Cynthia! Did you find any pumpkins to puree or are you using squash? Spinach, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli rabe or any sort of green will work well in this pasta. So use what greens are available to you! I can’t believe you can’t get kale where you are, is that true all the time or just this time of year? Anyway, I hope the cake turns out great girl! xoxo, Jackie

          1. hi jackie, it is actually an all year round no kale situation. (i KNOW. i was shocked when i realized i’d have to go without great kale caesar salads from now on!) but you make do– i’m just happy there’s spinach!
            i am using a squash, i’m not sure what kind (round, very light brown peel) but the DIY puree instructions you recommended worked well and the squash has a really nice, sweet flavor. i think it will do well in baked goods 🙂

        1. Thanks Elise! Try the whole-wheat version, so good, or you can even try quinoa or rice pasta if you want to go a healthier route! 🙂

      7. Can’t wait to try his. Looks delicious and we are huge fans of the lacinto kale salad. Kids might even love the Mommy version as they like any kind of pasta. Thanks for another easy, healthy weeknight meal. Makes things so much easier on work/school nights.

        1. Hi Allison! Thanks for your super sweet comment. As you saw from my weekly menu post this week, I need more easy, 30 minute meals for you all, as well as myself! I hope you and the boys enjoy the “mommy” version! I just love it! xoxo, Jackie

      8. I love lemon recipes since we’re lucky to have an old lemon tree in the yard. And this was easy and delicious as you promised….who knew kale could cook so fast? I found the recipe at 6:30 and had dinner on the table before 7:15. And, my 3-1/2 year old asked if he could have it in his lunch tomorrow. Success!

        1. Hi Shannon! Yaay! I’m so happy that you loved the kale pasta and that your 3-1/2 year old loved it as well. People are intimidated by kale, but once they try it, they love it. You should try the lacinato kale salad next. It’s super easy to make and you break down the kale by massaging it. It’s the salad that has turned kale haters into kale lovers. Watch my long video as I show you how to de-stem the kale as well as massage it. I bet your 3-1/2 year old will love that salad as well. Anwyay, I’m so happy to hear that you loved the ease and taste of the pasta! xoxo, Jackie

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      10. My mind is blown by this meal! Just had it for dinner and it was so, so yummy! And fast too! I added sesame seeds and some tomatoes on the side since I don’t eat cheese. Looking forward to exploring the rest of your recipes 🙂

        1. Hi Victoria! I’m so happy to hear that you loved this pasta dish. Did you make the regular version or the whole-wheat one? I love the addition of sesame seeds and tomatoes, so going to try that sometime! Let me know what else you end up trying from the blog 🙂 xoxo, Jacquelyn

      11. Made this last night, delicious. I typically try to omit dairy from recipes, but I used freshly shaved Parmesan and it was great. Next time (which will be very soon) I think I’ll sub the cheese with kalamata olives for the same kinda salty punch with the lemony goodness.

        1. Hi Jessica! I’m super happy to hear that this pasta was a success for you! Yaay! I love the subsitution of kalamata olives, yum! So going to try that next 🙂

          xoxo, Jackie

      12. This is the 1st time I’ve tried this recipe. It’s quick, easy and most of all, it’s delicious & elegant. Walnuts are a nice touch. I added halved grape tomatoes for more color & nutrition. Also added a dash of oregano and tarragon for flavor. My only advice is to be sure to measure kale after it’s cut so that you have enough. I will certainly make this dish again.

        1. I’m so happy to hear that you loved this pasta dish! I also love hearing about the additions you made. I will have to try the grape tomatoes next time, as those are so tasty and ripe right now! I always use at least 2 heads of kale because I love it so much, so maybe I should add that to the post. Thanks for the tips! xoxo, Jacquelyn

      13. Hi Jackie,
        Thank you so much for this recipe, I have tried to cook Kale before poorly but found this recipe to be so tasty and fresh, the zing of the lemon works so well with the Kale. I think it will become a staple from here on in. Something you may be interested I searched for Kale recipes on the Australian version of google and your recipe ranked in the top 5 or 10 so your recipes must be travelling around the world!
        Congratulations 🙂

        1. Hi Toni! Yaay! I’m so happy to hear that you loved this recipe. I love it because of the simplicity, and the you’re right, the lemon really does pair amazingly well with the kale. I think every kale recipe I have uses lemon juice in it. If you’re loving kale, then you need to try my lacinato kale salad. It’s the bomb and so easy to make. Watch my video as I show you all the steps to make it that much easier. http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/lacinato-kale-salad/
          That’s so cool about being in the top 5 or 10 on google in Australia! Yippee! I guess it shows that I’m a bit kale obsessed 😉 Have a wonderful week and thanks so much for saying hi! xoxo, Jacquelyn

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