30 Minute Green Pasta Recipe with Kale
This yummy green pasta recipe might be one of the most delicious ways to eat kale! The green pasta sauce comes together in a few minutes in the blender with no sauteing – the kale leaves are quickly blanched in the pasta pot for fewer dishes. It’s a kid friendly, weeknight dinner that just so happens to be gluten free and low FODMAP.
Prepare to fall in love with what is, perhaps, a near perfect pasta recipe. I mean, it’s pasta – big win right there. But it’s also super easy, with almost zero cooking required, like my vegan alfredo sauce or hummus pasta recipe. And the gorgeous green pasta sauce is packed with a full bunch of kale, yet tastes almost like a vegan cheese sauce, so you’ll get a boost of nutrients on those nights when you’d way rather eat pasta than salad.
I never met a green veggie I didn’t like…and that’s not just because I’m a registered dietitian!
Even as a kid, I loved salads and broccoli and kale, probably because I grew up in a Portuguese house where one of our staple dishes was caldo verde, a green soup. But I know that not everyone looks adoringly at a bunch of kale the same way I do. So I wanted to share a green pasta recipe that is so delicious that even kale skeptics will fall in love.
One of my favourite things to do is dream up plant-based recipes to help you eat more green veggies. In fact, green veggies are one of what I call my “Daily 3”: powerful plant foods that I try to eat daily.
Why?? Because A) they are super nutrient-dense, offering a ton of vitamins, minerals and helpful phytochemicals to help you feel your best and B) I find that green veggies really make a difference in how you feel almost immediately, so you’re inspired to keep taking care of yourself.
This green pasta sauce is inspired by Chef Joshua MacFadden’s kale sauce recipe in his wonderful book Six Seasons which in turn is probably inspired by the classic Peruvian green spaghetti, which is made with spinach not kale.
My version veganizes these classic recipes, adds a boost of extra nutrition from the hemp hearts and nutritional yeast and keeps it fully low FODMAP so it’s a tummy-friendly option for those following a low FODMAP diet for IBS.
If you’re looking for a plant-based cookbook packed with even more delicious and gut-friendly recipes, including about 30 low FODMAP recipes, pick up a copy of my cookbook Good For Your Gut!
What’s in green pasta sauce, you ask?
This green pasta sauce makes a flavourful and budget-friendly alternative to classic pesto and it’s a great way to use up that bunch of kale you bought and then promptly forgot about. Not that that ever happens to me….
There are just 5 easy ingredients (plus pasta and salt!) to grab in the pantry:
- Kale: You want to use curly green kale for a bright green sauce, but in a pinch, try Tuscan (lacinato) kale here…but lacinato may darken the sauce.
- Nutritional Yeast: I love the cheesy, umami flavour of nutritional yeast…I include it in a lot of my recipes because it’s high in B vitamins, including vitamin B12 which is critical on a plant-based diet:
- Hemp hearts: hemp hearts give a little boost of plant-based protein and omega 3 fats to this recipe but they’re also a low FODMAP alternative to cashew cream for making creamier vegan sauces and smoothies
- Lemon: You’ll want the juice of half a lemon, which is my go-to hack for brightening up the flavour of leafy greens in sauces, salads and even smoothies. Acidity balances bitterness.
- Mint: Mint is great for fussy guts, as it is a carminative herb, meaning that it helps to relax the smooth muscles of the gut lining. It also balances out the kale flavour…but don’t worry, this sauce isn’t overtly minty! Out of mint? Go ahead and substitute fresh basil.
- Pasta: You can use any pasta shape you like, from penne to spaghetti. I like a shape that will hold onto the sauce well, like a penne with ridges or even orecchiette.
How to make this simple green pasta recipe
My favourite vegan pasta recipes are the ones where you boil the pasta and blend the sauce, like my cashew alfredo pasta. It’s easy enough for a novice cook and makes for a fuss free dinner even on a busy weeknight.
The only reason this recipe takes 30 minutes is because you have to boil the water and cook the pasta. If you have fresh pasta, you’ll shave 10 minutes off the total time!
- Step One: Blanch the kale. Bring water to a boil, salt it and add the kale, blanching for two minutes and then remove the kale with tongs, shaking excess water and place it directly in a high speed blender.
- Step Two: Boil the Pasta. Make sure water is good and boiling again and add the pasta, cooking according to package directions. Before you drain it, reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Step Three: Prep the green pasta sauce. When the pasta is cooking, add the hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mint and salt to the blender. When the pasta is almost done, use ⅓ cup (75 mL) of the pasta water and blend the sauce on high until perfectly smooth, about 45-60 seconds. You want the sauce thick to start, because you can always thin it out later.
- Step Four: Toss the pasta. Give pasta a quick rinse under cool water, then return to the pot off the heat. Pour the green sauce over and toss, adding 1-2 tablespoons of pasta cooking water only if necessary to reach desired consistency.
FAQ: Why is kale so good for you?
It’s a wee bit cliche at this point, but my love of kale runs deep! Kale has a rich flavour, makes great salads that resist wilting and it has a ton of nutritional benefits too.
- It’s mineral rich: just a ½ cup of cooked kale contains about 50 mg of calcium, about 0.5 mg of iron, and 150 mg of heart-healthy potassium.
- It packs in the vitamins: that same ½ cup contains more than half your daily vitamin A requirement in the form of beta-carotene, about one-third of your vitamin C intake and like 5 times the amount of vitamin K (for bone health, blood clotting and also anti-inflammatory!)
- Alllll the phytochemicals: like a ton of lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health, as well as quercetin and kaempferol. Plus, it’s a cruciferous veggie that contains beneficial sulfur-based phytochemicals to support a healthy cell cycle.
Tips, Tricks and Substitutions
- This green pasta sauce recipe keeps well for up to 3 days in the fridge, if you want to make it ahead of time; fully dressed pasta is best eaten within 2 days. To reheat either the sauce or the pasta, just add a splash of water and oil and cook on medium-low until warmed through.
- Have spinach or chard on hand instead of kale? Go ahead and use it! Just taste and adjust lemon, nutritional yeast and/or salt to accommodate.
- Don’t have hemp hearts? As long as you aren’t eating low FODMAP, substitute with ¼ cup sunflower seeds or cashews.
- Want to boost protein in this meal? If you aren’t eating low FODMAP, go for a legume-based pasta like lentil or chickpea.
More yummy, easy vegan pasta recipes
30 Minute Green Pasta Recipe with Kale
- ½ pound bunch curly green kale, de-stemmed, see note
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- ¼ packed cup fresh mint leaves
- ½ lemon, juiced, about 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound your favourite pasta , keep it gluten free for low FODMAP folks!
- 1 cup reserved pasta water, you won't use it all!
- High Speed Blender
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiled, salt water and add kale. Blanch for 2 minutes. Remove using tongs, shake excess water, and place directly in the blender.
- Let water come back to a full boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, add hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mint and salt to blender. Set aside.
- Before pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Add 1/3 cup to the blender and blend green pasta sauce on high for 45-60 seconds, until perfectly smooth. Taste and adjust salt, nutritional yeast or lemon if need be. You want it to taste very bright and vibrant as it mellows on the pasta.
- Drain pasta in a colander and rinse quickly with cool water. Return pasta to the pot – off of the heat – and toss with green sauce. Add 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water at a time if you find the sauce is too thick (I rarely need it).
- Serve with some flaky salt, chile flakes or extra nutritional yeast if you like.