Kale Pasta recipe from Macheesmo

A Kale Pasta Toss

Kale Pasta Toss - Quickly blanched kale tossed with penne pasta, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lots of lemon juice. A quick and healthy dinner!


A Kale Pasta Toss

Jump to Recipe

Sometimes when I’m crunched for time, I like to throw together what I call a “pasta toss.”

It turns out that there are a lot of pasta toss recipes out there (2.4 million according to google), but most of the ones that returned on the first page were very heavy dishes.

When I do a pasta toss, I usually like it to be on the lighter side.  I like to use flavorful veggies, nuts, maybe a bit of cheese, and good olive oil, which is exactly what this Kale Pasta has.

Maybe most importantly though, a good pasta toss should take less than 30 minutes to prepare, in my opinion. Kale Pasta is a dish that can be made almost on a whim, but it really filling and somewhat healthy.

Kale Pasta Toss

Serves 4
Prep Time:
Total Time:
Kale Pasta recipe from Macheesmo
Print Recipe

Rate This Recipe

Just a moment please...

Did you make this?

Instagram logo

Snap a photo and tag @macheesmo so I can see your work.

Quickly blanched kale tossed with penne pasta, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lots of lemon juice. A quick and healthy dinner!


1 large bunch kale, chopped and rinsed
1 pound penne pasta
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juice only
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper


1) Rinse kale and chop off leaves to remove any large stems. Blanch kale in salted, boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove kale and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking.

2) In a large high-walled pan, add olive oil over low heat. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.

3) Cook pasta in same water that you blanched the kale in.

4) Drain kale and add to pan with garlic, pepper flakes and olive oil. Stir to coat the kale.

5) Once pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to pan with kale. Stir to combine well and season with salt and pepper.

6) Add fresh squeezed lemon juice to pan and stir to combine.

7) Serve pasta toss with slivered almonds and parmesan cheese.

Kale Pasta

Kale Basics

For this pasta toss, I used a full bunch of kale, but feel free to experiment.  Almost any leafy green would work well or you can even expand into brussel sprouts, green beans, or asparagus world.

Honestly, I rarely put meat in with this dish just because it drags out your cooking time pretty substantially.  If you use a lot of rich green veggies, you won’t miss the flavor.  It’s still a very filling meal.

If you’ve never worked with kale before, it can seem a bit intimidating.  The leaves are huge, but they are very easy to break down actually.

Just use a sharp knife to slice down the sides of each rib on each leaf.  Remove the thick parts of the ribs leaving only the leafy green parts.  Then very roughly chop those up.

Also, be sure to rinse your kale really well.  A lot of dirt and grime can get caught in the folds of the leaves.

cleaned Kale for Kale Pasta
Chopped and rinsed.

Once your kale is washed and chopped, dunk it into a large pot of salted, boiling water.  I usually use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water.  You can use this same pot of water to cook your pasta in after the kale is done.

Once the kale is in, give it a stir and let it cook for just 30-45 seconds.  It should turn bright green and start to wilt  a bit.

Once it’s done cooking, immediately remove the kale from the water and dunk it all in a big bowl of ice water.  This will stop the cooking time and preserve some crunch to the kale.  It will also help it stay bright green.

This step is annoying, but if you don’t do it your kale will continue to cook and get soggy and turn a muddy brown color.

shocked Kale - Kale Pasta
Shock and Awe.

Big Flavors

Besides the kale, there are really just a few ingredients to this Kale Pasta toss, most of which you should have around if you keep a decently stocked pantry.

While there are just a few ingredients, they pack a lot of flavor.

flavors for Kale Pasta
Easy, but good, flavors.

Cooking the Dish

While your pasta is cooking, go ahead and add your oil to a large skillet or pan with high walls.  You’re going to build the entire dish in this pan so make sure it’s big enough to fit everything.  You can use a large pot also.

Heat the oil over low heat and then add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  You want to warm these ingredients, but not burn them.  Keep a close eye on them, keep the heat down low, and only cook them for 3-4 minutes.

simmer - Kale Pasta
Low heat, people.

Once the oil is really infused with the garlic and red pepper flakes (it will be super fragrant), go ahead and drain your kale and add it to the pan.

It’ll sizzle like crazy, but just stir it around and coat the kale with all the oil and garlic.

kale - Kale Pasta recipe
Kale done right.

Finishing the Kale Pasta

If your timing is right, your pasta should be done just a few minutes after you add your kale to the large pot.

Drain the pasta and you’re ready to rock.  When it comes to pasta, you can use a wide range of pastas for this dish.  I like penne though.

pasta for Kale Pasta
You can use a lot of different pastas here.

Once you add the pasta to the pot, stir (or toss if you’re feeling ambitious) everything together and then squeeze on some fresh lemon juice.

The lemon juice adds some acidity to the dish that makes all the flavors really come alive.  Don’t skip it no matter what.

Also, it would be a good idea to season the pasta toss with a pinch of salt and pepper at this point.

lemon squeeze - Kale Pasta
Most important.

Once everything is mixed well and seasoned well, it’s done!

Pour it all into a big bowl and top it with slivered almonds and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Done deal.

finished Kale Pasta
Light toppings.

For an under 30 minute dinner, this is pretty hard to beat in my opinion.

It has some slight heat to it and lots of leafy green flavors.

When people email me and say they are crunched for time and looking for quick dishes, this Kale Pasta is the recipe I’ll be sending them now.

6 Responses to “A Kale Pasta Toss” Leave a comment

  1. Have you ever tried making kale chips? I think these chips, crumbled on top of your pasta dish would be the icing on the cake, well ok, topping on the pasta. I’m going to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I really liked this recipe. The red pepper gave it a really nice, subtle kick and the kale and almond slivers made it a little more substantial than just pasta. We are thinking of trying a similar recipe with broccoli or asparagus.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *