Creamy Kale Pesto Shells with Chickpeas (vegan | plant-based)

A simple kale pesto is something I often make for meal prep. My standard recipe uses all pantry ingredients I keep stocked, so as long as I have some kale, I know I can whip some up and use it on everything from pizza to pasta to sandwiches. The staples? Toasted pumpkin seeds, garlic, lemon and olive oil – that’s it – plus salt and pepper to taste, of course.

Creamy pasta sauces are my favorite, so naturally I love making this kale pesto into a pesto cream sauce and mixing it with pasta. That’s what I’ve done here using blended cashews as the “cream” part. I also add a can of chickpeas to the mix for extra texture, protein and fiber.

This is one of those meals that comes together in no time. Basically in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, everything else can be prepared. You do need special equipment, like a food processor for the pesto and a high speed blender for the cashew “cream” – but if you have the equipment, this meal couldn’t be easier. So let’s get into it.

Creamy Kale Pesto Shells with Chickpeas
serves: 4


for pesto

2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
5 oz roughly chopped green or lacinato kale
handful of basil (optional)
3/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
black pepper to taste

for cashew cream

2/3 cup raw cashews, soaked/drained if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast

for pasta

1 lb shell shaped pasta, or pasta of choice
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained

To Make

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water liberally, cook pasta to al dente. When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of the water, set aside. Add chickpeas to a colander and drain pasta over chickpeas.

Meanwhile, make pesto and cashew cream.

For pesto, if you’re sensitive to garlic, saute roughly chopped or crushed cloves in a few tablespoons of the olive oil over low to medium-low heat, until golden. This is my preference and I use 3 average size cloves, or 2 large cloves.

In a food processor, combine pesto ingredients except kale and basil. Process until a chunky paste is formed. Add kale, and basil if using. Process until a paste is formed, adding more olive oil to consistency, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For cashew cream, blend cashews, salt, nutritional yeast and roughly 2/3 cup water. You can add up to 3/4 cup if the size of your blender cup can handle it.

When pasta is in the colander, add cashew cream and 1 to 1-1/4 cups of the pesto to the same pot. Stir in the reserved pasta water until a smooth sauce is formed. Toss sauce with pasta and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more water or plant milk to consistency.

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