Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan

Despite my occasional fantasies about selling our house and moving into a condo (all of which coincide with afternoons dedicated to yardwork), due to Ben’s greatest vice, we’ll never actually be able to leave. At the same time I mourn the loss of my hypothetical yardwork-free life, however, I owe his habit a debt of gratitude for bringing today’s Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan into my life.

Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan. A quick and healthy one-pan dinner!

Ben has a serious and thus-far incurable book-buying addiction. I realize that it sounds ridiculous to deem the purchase of literature a “vice,” but the six full-sized bookshelves—all of which are packed to the brim with books both stacked upright and crammed horizontally on top of existing rows—would suggest otherwise.


Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan

While I support Ben’s love of learning and admire the fact that he wants to read a biography on Benjamin Franklin in his free time, the idea of attempting to transport these books to a new location makes my lower back quiver in fear. I’ve gently (and not so gently) suggested that he purchase a Kindle to save shelf space, to which he insists, “it’s not the same,” and, “I’d miss the feel of a book in my hands.” To that I say, “we’re hiring movers.”

I know that I have my habits too—I can’t pass a cheese counter or wine rack without tossing a few finds into my cart—but in my defense, my impulse buys have a shelf life. Allow Ben within a square mile of Half Price Books, and he’s guaranteed to come home with an armful, which is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when we “happened upon” a Half Price Books while taking a new route home. Ben left with four books; I treated myself to one: Giada’s Family Dinners.

Kale Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts and Parmesan

Used bookstores are cookbook treasure troves. While Ben pours over the biography and economics sections, I scour the top shelves for prized copies at rock-bottom prices. From America’s Test Kitchen to my favorite celebrity chefs, I’ve scored some serious bargains, and my most recent purchase from Giada was no exception. It set me back $5.99 and is where I found the inspiration for today’s kale pasta.

I don’t know that I’d reach for this book for a quick weeknight dinner the way I do Mark Bittman, but for occasions when I want something more decadent or am seeking new ideas for pasta combinations, it’s perfect. In the “Family Style Pasta” section, I happened upon an enticing-looking recipe for Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Pecorino, so I decided to give it a go.

Kale and Walnut Pasta with Parmesan

Giada’s original recipe called for chard, pine nuts, and Pecorino Romano cheese, but I swapped the beautiful kale I found at the farmer’s market, wallet-friendly walnuts, and the block of Parmesan I already had on hand. I also tend to prefer a higher veggie-to-noodle ratio in my pasta dishes than Giada uses, so I played around with the other ingredients to ensure I had a little bite of greens, nuts, and cheese with every twirl of spaghetti. The original recipe also called for olives, but I opted to leave them out to allow the flavor of the walnuts and Parmesan to truly shine.

The resulting dish was exceptionally pleasing. I loved the rich toastiness and crunch the walnuts added, the light acidity of the wine, and the sweetness of the caramelized onions. Ben, who is usually a red sauce-only pasta purist, quickly inhaled his first helping and went back for seconds.

Walnut Kale Pasta with Parmesan and Caramelized Onions

Maybe we should stop into Half Price Books more often. After all, when you already have six bookshelves, what’s one more?

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Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan

A fast and flavorful kale pasta with white wine, walnuts, and Parmesan. Beautiful, healthy, and perfect for family dinner or date night.

Yield: Serves 4

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for tossing with the pasta
  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 large bunches kale (about 2 pounds), stems removed and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in their juices
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (reduce to 1/4 teaspoon if sensitive to spice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

    1. Heat a small, dry skillet with a thick bottom over medium low. Once hot, add the walnuts, and toast them, stirring often, until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes (alternatively, you can toast them in a 300 degree F oven or toaster oven for 10 minutes, stirring twice through out). Set aside.
    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain, toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking, then set aside.
    3. Meanwhile, heat the 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil a large deep skillet over medium high. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sliced onions and sauté until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the kale and sauté 4-5 minutes until it wilts. If it does not fit in the pot all at once, add by gradual handfuls, stir and allow it to wilt down, then add more. Once all of the kale is added and has softed a bit, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes in their juices, the wine, and the red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pan and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the kale is soft and the tomatoes break down, about 3-5 minutes. Remove lid and let any excess liquid cook off a bit so that the pasta isn’t too watery.
    4. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. Serve warm, topped with toasted walnuts and Parmesan.

Adapted from Giada’s Family Dinners

// All images and text ©/Well Plated.

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

31 comments

  1. I’m simply in love with this recipe, Erin! For the pasta, I’m always cooking it al dente but I never leave it as the package suggests, since that’s more like a well-done. Instead, I take them out of the heat 1 minute earlier than what the instruction say. And, oh my, then it’s mamma-mia in the plate!

  2. Walnuts and parmesan.. Yummy!

  3. I love this pasta. It looks healthily with much vegetables. Thanks so much for this.

  4. Erin, this pasta looks wondrous!!! I am such a pasta girl and the addition of kale is something I’ve never tried but it sounds delicious!

  5. That sounds like an impressive book collection on Ben’s part. I’m not a big reader, but I am a big cheese fan–this pasta looks and sounds like perfection. 

  6. OMG. I feel your pain. Bret is the same way and to get him to purge a book is like asking for a miracle. Sigh. Maybe I will distract him with some pasta while I toss a book out the window? 

  7. Oh man, I know what you mean by having waay too many books – we recently had to clear out a lot of them for our move. Between our law books, my cookbooks, and the books we read for fun, we could fill up 3 bookshelves! (And we’ve already purged a lot of our books when we moved from DC to California.) I feel like the only way to get husbands to agree to throw out some of their things is to agree to do it yourself, too. It’s painful for me, but it works! 

    In the meantime — beautiful pasta dish!

  8. i am little bit like Ben when it comes to bargain books and alot like you about cheese and wine! i love the subs you have made in this pasta. 

  9. Oh I love Half Priced books.
    But I go to bookstores also because I truly believe libraries and bookstores are important.
    I’ll pin the recipe because it looks so good.

  10. Hey girl- I love Half price book stores to! We had one close to us in OKC  which was nice but now we live in Shawnee,OK (almost an hour away)and they don’t have one (Darn)!!  But anyway this pasta dish looks really good!

  11. Oooh walnuts in pasta! That’s new to me but it sounds perfect!

  12. Erin – your food photography has just gotten better! I love this recipe – all of the hearty veggies and the walnuts. It looks like a great combo.

  13. I’m with Ben – it just isn’t the same when you don’t have a real book in your hands.  Maybe it’s a lawyer thing?  I love used book stores and totally have that Giada family dinner book.  Your beautiful pics make me want to make this dish!

  14. While I love my Kindle and the shelf space it saves me, I have to say that I have a hard time passing up new cookbooks! Giada’s books are some of my favorites. This pasta looks so comforting yet healthy at the same time. What a delicious way to enjoy kale!

  15. “I love cooking with wine… sometimes I even put it in the food!!” ;) This seems like a situation where wine should DEFINITELY go in the food. This pasta looks so mouthwateringly delicious but I love that it’s healthy too! :D

  16. Erin, the house I grew up in had books in every room except the bathrooms.  The dining room was converted to a library.  So I see nothing wrong with lots of book shelves – I wish we had more.  I think Ben’s point about the Kindle not being the same as real books is a good one.  I have e-books, but much prefer print copies of books.  If nothing else, they are easier to read, easier on the eyes.

    I like the sound of this recipe, and it’s something I just might try (I’ve been trying a lot of new things lately, so I have to give my husband some familiar favorites before I can do this.  Plus I’ll have to invest in some white wine – our entire supply is red because that’s what we drink…

  17. We moved last year and a friend who was helping us move said, “Never volunteer to help a reader move.” Funny, eh? 

    Love this kale and pasta dish. Pinned!

  18. Ha. My husband is like that. He gives me these big, blue pitiful puppy dog eyes when I notice his armful of books (when I think we’re leaving the bookstore) and… well, it kinda works. EVERY TIME. 
    I’m going to be absolutely useless when I have his child! 

    As for this kale pasta? GORGEOUS. Particularly with your ‘serving suggestion’ (that gorgeously crisp glass of white wine!) x

  19. this sounds sooooo good. and ben and I are birds of a feather. just replace the economics shelf with a health section. xxox

  20. Kale is very new here in Greece (the demand, thanx to the power of the Internet led some first imports in the last months) and we’re always looking out for great recipes for it. This is one definitely hits the spot, it has great texture and it’s super healthy! 
    Thank you for the yummy recipe!

  21. Made this for supper tonight. Delicious! 

  22. I have been loving kale lately and I found this recipe while searching for new kale recipes.  It’s so good!!!  For real!  I love that it’s all common ingredients that everyone has at home and yet put them together and it turns into something magical!  Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! I’ll definitely be making this again.

    • Hi Sabrina! YAY! I’m so glad this recipe was a winner for you! Thank you SO much for leaving this awesome review! I really appreciate it. :)

  23. This is one I will try. Looks great, sounds great. Lot of chitter chat before you get the recipe and nice photos but hey I love books too. No denying that lol.

    • I hope you love it, Brenda! (P.S. If you’re ever referring back to the post to just find the recipe, there’s a “Jump to Recipe” button right below the post title that’ll take you straight there.)

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