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Wholewheat spaghetti and pesto with kale

Once you’ve made your own pesto, you really understand that – even though shop bought is fine now and then – there is NO comparison. It is so quick to make and so easy too. It isn’t cheap! The pine nuts cost a lot nowadays, and the Parmesan and basil aren’t cheap either. But it’s worth it as a sophisticated and simple treat. Most kids love pesto – it’s a bit like houmous in that a few years back no one knew what it was but now it’s like a modern family’s staple.

The best thing about pesto is that you can hide greens in it. You can make a pesto wholly out of healthy greens like kale as I did in this recipe yonks back. But as kids get older and much more savvy to your tricks, it may be wiser to make a classic pesto, as here, and chuck in as much raw greens as you think you can get away with. I managed a really generous handful in this recipe.

Using wholewheat pasta is such a family food no brainer – they genuinely don’t notice the difference. It’s not like brown bread where it is clearly brown bread. The sauce covers its colour so they are none the wiser. It’s more filling so I think you need less, too. Generally I serve 250g pasta for 2 adults and 2 kids. It doesn’t sound like much, but whenever I make 300g there are leftovers. Also most bags of pasta come in 500g so this means I get two meals out of it. Lastly, if making spaghetti, then I snap the dry pasta in two before popping in full pan of salting, rapidly boiling water – that way you don’t have to wait for half of it to wilt before trying to jam the rest of it is – i.e. it fits!

There are lots of ‘abouts’ in this recipe – as pesto is a very approximate type of thing – adjust to taste!

If feeding little ones, then why not make a batch and freeze in ice cubes then add to pasta as and when you need for a healthy and quick dinner?

Makes: enough for 2 adults, 2 kids

Takes: 15 minutes


  • About 100g basil
  • About 100g Parmesan, grated
  • About 150g pine nuts
  • About 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  • A little pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Kale, as much as you can manage to fit in stealthily
  • Small splash of water


  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil and lightly salt it.
  2. In a food processor – I use a mini one – blitz the nuts and basil. Then grate the Parmesan and crushed garlic and add that. Now the oil, seasoning and kale and blitz again. Add a splash of boiling water – only a little bit to ease the kale in!
  3. Add pasta to pan – snap in two and pop in. Boil till al dente. Drain.
  4. Add sauce to pasta – there is a lot of pesto but I like a good covering. If there is any leftover than pop in a bowl, put oil on top and in fridge. Or freeze in ice cubes.

Kale pesto



  1. February 22, 2017 / 9:06 am

    Very inspiring recipe 🙂 – my kids love classic (basil/pine nuts) pesto, but this would be the perfect way to “trick” them another healthy green.

    • Rachel Brady
      February 22, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Hi – that’s it, it’s all about the hidden greens ; ) X

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