If not already available, toast the measured amount of walnut pieces in a toaster oven or conventional oven. To do so, preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C and then toast the walnut pieces for about 6-8 minutes each side, or until browned. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, wash and quickly pat dry (using a paper towel or kitchen towel) the fresh kale leaves (does not need to be absolutely dry). Tear the kale leaves away from the stems, and then tear the leaves into smaller bite sized pieces. Measure out 4 cups and set this aside in a bowl.
Wash and quickly pat dry the basil leaves and stems (if using a high speed blender). These also do not need to be absolutely dry.
Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves, then add this and all the other ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor (toasted walnuts, kale, basil leaves, salt, pepper and lemon juice).
Blend these ingredients on high speed, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl, until a smooth green sauce is formed.
Serve as is over pasta, bread, bagels, or crackers (for those with gluten sensitivities, use a gluten-free alternative). If you desire, sprinkle on a combination of toppings (optional). See the suggested toppings listed above. Spoon the extras into an ice cube tray and freeze for 48 hours in a freezer before removing the ‘cube portions’ to put into a zip fastened bag, for easy use in the months to come!
If you do not have a high speed blender or food processor, do not use basil stems in this recipe. Only use the basil leaves. For a smoother sauce, blend the ingredients for longer or add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the food processor bowl during the blending process.
This recipe can be made with 5 cups of fresh basil leaves instead of a combination of kale and basil leaves. Alternatively, if you don’t have any basil on hand, you can use 5 cups of fresh kale leaves instead. For those that don’t have kale or basil leaves, you can substitute in an equivalent amount of a mix of washed and dried baby kale and spinach leaves. I have even made this recipe before using just spinach leaves instead of the kale leaves in this recipe, along with one cup of fresh basil leaves!
Although this is a dairy-free recipe, if you would like a more ‘cheesy’ pesto sauce flavor, feel free to add in a ¼ cup of vegan cheese shreds to this recipe during the blending process.