I’m not someone who overly cares about the health content of the food she puts in her mouth. I have no problem eating pizza, burgers, fettucine alfredo or ice cream without any guilt. But I do enjoy foods that are both healthy and taste good, and this recipe fits the bill. This pesto sauce is chock full of superfoods and something you can feel good about eating (or overeating!). So let’s discuss some of the superfood ingredients in this sauce:
Kale: Dark Leafy Greens (in general) are excellent sources of folate, zinc, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber. They may protect against cancer and have the potential to reduce chronic illnesses (such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes). Source: Healthline Kale is high in antioxidants particularly the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol which have powerful heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects, Source: Healthline
Basil: Basil is anti-inflammatory proving benefits in fighting inflammatory diseases like arthritis, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disorders. Basil is believed to be beneficial in controlling diabetes and high blood pressure and contains a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, potassium). It also kills bacteria and has an antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Source: Be Herbal
Hemp Seeds or Flax Seeds: Seeds are nutritional powerhouses loaded with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Source: Cooking Light Hemp seeds are protein have 6 grams of protein per tablespoon and are packed with heart-healthy alpha-linoleic acid. Source: Eat This
Garlic: Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties and may benefit people living with diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Source: Everyday Health
Lemon: Lemons help with digestion, clean out your liver, clears up skin, good source of Vitamin C, and help protect against cancer. Source: Simple Most
Olive oil: Olive oil is a good source of vitamin E, polyphenols, and monounsaturated fatty acids, all which help reduce the risk of heart disease. Source: Harvard Health
While red chili flakes are not technically listed anywhere as a superfood that I can find, they have amazing health benefits. They have been proven to lower bad cholesterol, may promote weightloss and kickstart metabolism, may relieve pain and help with digestive issues (Source: Penn Medicine).
To take this dish over the top on the health-o-meter, I tossed the entire jar of sauce with 14 ounces of cooked kamut pasta. I swear I’ve talked about the health benefits of kamut before but in case you missed it, I’ll cover it again. Kamut is 100% whole grain and, though it contains wheat, may be suitable for people who have gluten-intolerance (but not for people with Celiac disease or wheat allergies). Kamut may reduce blood sugar levels and heart disease risk factors like bad cholesterol, suppress hormones that promote inflammation and reduced total cholesterol. Source: Healthline
I carefully crafted this recipe after researching kale pesto recipes to use up some of the kale I have in my garden. I knew immediately I didn’t want a recipe that used only kale. I’m a big fan of traditional pesto made with basil so I figured mixing the kale and basil would keep some of that traditional flavor but up the nutrient quotient. I just couldn’t see myself digging forkfuls of kale into my mouth. I chose other superfood ingredients to maximize the health benefits of this sauce, which is why I suggest certain seeds or nuts and specific oil. I love the addition of the red chili flakes. I didn’t measure how much I put in — just sprinkled some right into the food processor dish. The chili flakes gave the dish a gentle kick.
Even though this recipe is chock full of healthy nutrients, fats, vitamins and minerals, you’ll want to go easy on the portions. Depending on how you measure the kale and basil in this recipe, one portion (of 6 servings) is about 620 calories, 38 g fat, 55 carbs and 18 g protein.
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- 2 to 3 c. packed kale (about 1 small bunch)
- 1 c. packed basil
- ½ c. hemp seeds, flax seeds or toasted walnuts
- juice of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp. fine-grain sea salt
- ¼ tsp. ground pepper
- Red pepper flakes, optional
- ½ to ¾ c. avocado oil, flaxseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 12 to 16 oz 100% whole grain or kamut pasta
- Wash and dry your kale and basil. I used a salad spinner to do this, triple washing both of them.
- Add the garlic and hemp seeds to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop the garlic and incorporate with the seeds. Add the kale, basil, seasonings and lemon juice. Pulse until the kale and basil have been chopped very fine.
- Add the oil, starting with half a cup. I added an extra 1/4 cup of olive oil to yield more of a sauce instead of chunky green kale salsa but go with your desired consistency. Add parmesan cheese and pulse to combine.
- Toss with whole grain pasta and serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired. Use within three days.