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Pesto pasta dish made with stems

A use for kale stems, other stems? Pesto!


A great way to use stems from kale, collard greens, swiss chard, basil, parsley, mint and other greens and herbs.


For pesto:

  • Stems. They might come from kale, chard, cilantro, basil, mint or a combination of sources.
  • Garlic. One pod.
  • Roasted nuts (optional). I like to use roasted walnuts. Or, you can keep the nuts out of the pesto and sprinkle them on the pasta when you’re done.
  • Cheese. You can put cheese in the pesto or apply it separately. Here, I topped with goat cheese, so added it separately, but a nice parm would be delicious in the pesto itself.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For pasta:

  • Pasta. Any size, shape or color.
  • Cheese. For topping (I used goat cheese in the picture here; a gruyere or parmesan would be delicious too)
  • Roasted nuts. For topping. I like roasted walnuts.
  • Veggies. whatever you have that sounds good! Tomatoes? Corn? Sauteed pepper? Peas?


  1. If using nuts, roast them. I roast walnuts or pecans in the oven at 350 for 5 to 10 minutes. Check and stir frequently to avoid burning. Sliced almonds tend to burn quickly in the oven, so I toast those on the stove top, stirring often.
  2. Blanch hardier stems (i.e. kale and chard) first. To do this, add the stems to boiling water, wait for the water to return to a boil and then leave them in the water for about 2 minutes. Blanching should be done for kale and chard, but not softer stems like cilantro, basil or mint.
  3. Roughly chop the stems and the garlic (only into pieces small enough to facilitate easier blending).
  4. Combine garlic, stems, salt, pepper, nuts (if using), cheese (if using), and a medium pour of olive oil in a food processor.
  5. Blend until smooth, adding oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve over pasta and veggies, sprinkle with nuts and cheese if they aren’t already in the pesto itself.