Kale and Sunflower Seed Pesto

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I feel like Lamb Chop. I’ve been singing “this is the cold that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friend”! We have been sick since Christmas and I am ready for this virus to get a move on. I have not had a huge appetite, but this pasta has been a staple. Mainly because the leftovers are amazing. It’s also a really refreshing pasta. It’s a change to the normal pesto because you’re using kale and sunflower seeds. Now, I’m not one of those people who would stick a kale sticker to their car publicly and regularly proclaiming my love for it. It’s fine, when cooked right (roasted with oil, salt, and pepper until it’s so crisp you forget you’re eating kale – or hidden in a smoothie), and this recipe does it right.

I think the basil is what really reduces that over the top kale flavor. The toasted garlic and the roasted sunflower seeds sort of close the flavor triangle, so it’s a balanced sauce. Not to mention it’s the easiest sauce to pull together. It all comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil the pasta. Speaking of pasta, I used whole wheat. I have terrible memories of eating whole wheat pasta in my Weight Watchers days, when I could eat a decent serving for minimal points and then try not to cry as I wait for my next snack (God that was horrible). It just did not taste good to me. But I rallied, not because I’m doing Weight Watchers, that ship has long sailed away and I’m focused on a healthier diet free lifestyle, but because I thought the whole wheat would honestly taste better here, and it did. It’s certainly not going to break the recipe if you choose to use another pasta type, *ahem* tortellini. I think that would pair quite nicely.

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Kale and Sunflower Seed Pesto


  • 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic peel intact
  • 2 cups packed kale stems removed
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/3 cup EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta or pasta of choice


  1. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, warm the sunflower seeds over medium heat. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Toss occasionally to get them freshly roasted. Add the to the bowl of your food processor. Place the garlic cloves in the pan, and toast until lightly browned, turning to make sure all sides are toasted. Move aside to let cool.
  3. Add the kale, basil, cheese, red pepper flakes and peeled garlic to the bowl with the sunflower seeds. Pulse until finely ground, scraping down the sides as needed. With the processor running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube until incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  4. When the pasta is done, drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of liquid. Return the pasta to the pan and pour in the pesto. Add reserved pasta water to thin as needed. (I actually omitted this step and left the pesto thick, for me it was perfect.) Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve with additional Parm.

Recipe Notes

NOTES Recipe barely adapted from Everyday Annie.

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