The Wonders of Winter Pesto

This winter pesto with kale is a reasonable substitute when summer is long gone, but snow makes you ache for summer produce. Berries and peaches, fresh corn, and basil for pesto alla genovese.

But pestos can be made with a variety of greens, like kale or spinach. And you can also make broccoli pesto or asparagus pesto or even green bean pesto.

Tips and tricks for making winter pesto

Winter pesto is just a variation on a theme. If you are using greens, whether basil or kale or spinach, you can add them directly to the food processor without cooking.

fusilli with a winter pesto in a pasta bowl

If you are using a more substantial vegetable, parboil it first. Reserve the cooked asparagus tips or broccoli florets to give your dish a little bit more texture.

Otherwise, these winter pesto recipes are all essentially the same. Use a clove of garlic, an ounce or two of Parmesan, a few tablespoons of toasted pine nuts or other toasted nuts or seeds, a 1/2 teaspoon of salt or so, maybe a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. Then drizzle olive oil into your food processor to get to your preferred consistency.

a salad spinner filled with kale
a bowl filled with kale pesto

FAQs about winter pesto

How to roast pine nuts?

You can toast nuts and seeds on the stove top or in the oven. This is one of those times where you just have to use your nose. Nuts are toasted when they smell … nutty.

What to do with pesto?

Use this kale pesto or any winter pesto over pasta, mixed with eggs, or as a sauce with chicken or fish.

Can pesto be frozen?

Absolutely. I save any extra pesto in a tupperware in the freezer and just use it as needed. You can freeze it in ice cube trays to make it easier to defrost.

Winter pesto with kale

Prep Time 15 minutes
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • Food processor


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ounce Parmesan plus more if serving with pasta
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch kale (~1/2 pound including stems), trimmed from stems
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed


  • Put the garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, and salt into the food processor and pulverize.
    1 clove garlic, 1 ounce Parmesan, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Add kale leaves, lemon juice, and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and process for about 10 seconds.
    1 bunch kale (~1/2 pound including stems), trimmed from stems, 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Scrape down sides of food processor and process for another 10 seconds.
  • Adjust to taste with additional olive oil, salt, or lemon juice as desired.


– substitute spinach for arugula
– substitute toasted walnuts or other nuts for the pinenuts.

a plate of cavatappi with broccoli pesto and a side salad

What’s next?

If you make this winter pesto with kale, please comment here or share a pic with me on Instagram!

Check out other pesto recipes including this tuna pesto pasta.

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