Monday, July 2, 2012

Pesto Spaghetti with Mushrooms and Kale

After taking such a long break from the blogging world, I decided to ease back in with a simple recipe that’s easy to throw together and takes very little time to prepare (basically the time it takes to boil pasta). I used whole wheat spaghetti and loads of vitamin-rich kale to make it a healthier dish that I can make regularly without hurting my waistline. Earthy, meaty mushrooms provide some bulk, fresh lemon juice brightens everything up and compliments the mushrooms amazingly well, and the rest of the ingredients just kind of happened as I was going along, as most of my recipes tend to do. I think it turned out pretty well, and I hope you do too.

Let’s get cooking!

Getting Started

You want to start this dish by getting the pasta water ready to boil; just follow the package directions if you aren’t sure how much water to use. While the water is taking its sweet time, cut up the kale (make sure to remove the tough spine) and parsley, and measure out the ingredients you’ll need. When the water is close to boiling, start heating up your sauté pan.

A side note about pans: if you are using a stainless steel variety, as I usually do, letting it heat up for a while at a lower setting (somewhere between med-low and medium, depending on your stove) will help to prevent sticking. See this video series for more info! It takes a little while to get used to it, so if you are using one and your mushrooms do end up sticking a little, the lemon juice we add later will take care of that, so no worries!

Once the water is boiling, add your pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. I used spaghetti for this dish, but you can use whatever kind you like. However, I should mention that you may need to add more pesto sauce at the end if you go with a pasta that has a lot of nooks and crannies for the sauce to hide in.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until they are tender and have released all of their juices. Just before they’re done, season with a little coarse salt.

Once the mushrooms are ready, add in the fresh lemon juice. To get the most out of your lemon, roll between your palm and the counter, pressing a little, to help release all the juices. This is especially helpful if you’ve had a difficult time finding a ripe lemon. Then cut it in half and squeeze right over the pan, with one hand underneath to catch any rogue seeds (those scoundrels!).

Scrape up any mushroom bits that got stuck to the pan while cooking, and then add in the kale and let wilt. I usually put a lid over the top to speed up the process, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one. Once the kale has started to wilt down, add in the capers (Dustin’s idea), olives (because why not?), and a few tablespoons of fresh parsley, and heat everything through. This should all happen fairly quickly; you don’t want the kale to be overcooked!

Your pasta should be ready by now, and you can assemble in a couple of different ways:

1)      Add the mushroom-kale mixture and desired amount of pesto to the pasta; heat together and serve.
2)      Add your desired amount of pesto to the pasta and serve individually, so everyone can take their desired amount of toppings.

I always go with the second option because I like to use less pesto and add more veggies, but the other way is much easier – totally your choice!

Finish off with a little extra parsley and Feta, and you’re good to go!

Wrapping it up

I really do love this recipe. It’s great for those long days when the last thing you want to do when you get home is cook an elaborate meal that destroys your kitchen and takes away from your downtime (X-Files reruns, in my case!). It also gives me a chance to catch up on some of my leafy greens, which I often have a hard time with.

If you’re not a fan of kale, I’ve also tried this recipe with zucchini instead, and it was equally as yummy. I would also like to try it with spinach, but haven’t gotten around to it. If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out!


2 5oz packages sliced shitake mushrooms
3 kale leaves, spine removed and cut into thin strips
Juice from 1 large lemon
1 Tbs olive oil for sautéing (less if using a nonstick pan)
½ package (13.25oz) whole wheat spaghetti
1 Tbs capers
½ container sliced black olives (3.8oz) (optional)
Pesto sauce, homemade or store bought, about ¼ cup
Handful of flat leaf parsley, diced, plus extra for garnish
Feta cheese for topping

Servings: About 4

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