Cavolo nero & hazelnut pesto

A truly delicious pesto, combining cavolo nero, hazelnuts, olive oil, garlic and parmesan. Quick to make, and fabulous on pasta, jacket potatoes and more.

I recently found myself with a surplus of cavolo nero – aka Tuscan kale. This is not something I ever expected to say, but here we are. I had two big bunches, and no good ideas.

Just add cream..?

My default when faced with kale and its relations is to saute with onions/garlic and add cream. For instance this kale, smoked salmon and cream pasta and this gnocchi with cavolo nero and cream. But we didn’t have any cream, and anyway, I didn’t really want anything so rich.

Another consideration had to be persuading my daughter Kipper to eat her greens. In fairness, she’s pretty good about eating veg, but leafy brassicas aren’t always the easiest sell. Then I had a brainwave.

Cavolo nero pesto on pasta.

Hey Pesto!

Kipper’s favourite food is….. PESTO! So why not make the cavolo nero into a delicious bright green pesto and serve it with pasta? Why not indeed.

The cavolo nero leaves were shredded and blanched, then whizzed up in the food processor with some garlic, olive oil, parmesan and ground hazelnuts. I was going to use the standard pine nuts, but then I saw these hazelnuts in the cupboard and decided to give them a whirl.

Cavolo nero pesto on pasta.

Kale-y delicious

This cavolo nero pesto was, if I say so myself, utterly delicious. DH was raving about it – I can’t actually remember the last time he went into raptures over dinner like this. Even Kipper scoffed it down. 

We ate our cavolo nero pesto with pasta for dinner. There was a little bit left over, and the next day I had it for lunch, on some mini baked potatoes with cream cheese. It was also delicious! And fabulously green, too. 

Cavolo nero pesto on potatoes.

This pesto was so tasty, and so easy to make. It will certainly become a standard way to use cavolo nero in this house. Especially when we don’t have any cream.

Makes 4 generous portions. 

A truly delicious pesto, combining cavolo nero, hazelnuts, olive oil, garlic and parmesan. Quick to make, and fabulous on pasta, jacket potatoes and more.

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Cavolo nero and hazelnut pesto

Course Main Course
Cuisine European, Italian
Keyword kale, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 262kcal
Author Helen


  • 250 g cavolo nero (approx. 9 oz)
  • 3 tbsp ground hazelnuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 75 ml extra virgin olive oil (approx. ⅓ cup)
  • 35 g grated parmesan (approx. ⅓ cup)
  • Salt & pepper


  • Remove the white 'ribs' from the cavolo nero leaves. Wash the leaves thoroughly and shred them into 2-3cm strips.
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Blanch the cavolo nero leaves for 2 minutes, then remove from the water and drain well in a colander, pressing down with a spoon to remove excess water.
  • Transfer the cavolo nero to a food processor and add all the other ingredients except the salt & pepper. Process until smooth, scraping down as required.
  • Taste, and season with salt & pepper to your liking.
  • Serve with freshly cooked pasta, on a jacket potato, or however you like!


You may like to thin the pesto with a little pasta cooking water if serving with pasta.
Approx per serving: 262 calories, 24g fat, 6g protein, 8g carbs

More delicious recipes using leafy greens include Sicilian-style kale with pine nuts, capers, currants and lemon, and gooey wild mushroom and spinach one pot pasta dinner.

Cavolo nero pesto on pasta.

I’m entering this lovely pesto into Pasta Please, hosted by KneadWhine and organised by Tinned Tomatoes, which this month is looking for recipes that are quick to prepare. This one’s ready in 10 minutes!


  1. Thank you for submitting this to Pasta Please this month – looks like we had similar ideas! I haven’t used much cavolo nero – I really want to give this a go!

  2. Yum! I’ve been meaning to make pesto for a while in my new food processor – I need to give it a go!

  3. Yum! I love making variations of pesto like this and I have been liking using pistachios at the moment.

  4. We love experimenting with different pesto combinations and this one looks particularly delicious. We’ve got some cavolo nero in the fridge so i’m going to make this for supper this week.

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