Vegetarian? Yes. Delicious? Most definitely! It starts with a base of beautiful fresh Tuscan kale along with toasted rich and buttery pine nuts, lightly sharp and salty Pecorino cheese and some lemon juice and zest to balance it all out. Top with some chili pepper flakes for a hint of heat and some extra pecorino and voilà – the perfect midweek meal.
Bring 2 large pots of generously salted water to a boil.
Fill a large bowl with ice water.
In batches, add the kale to one of the pots and blanch each batch for 1 minute until bright green and just tender. Drain and immediately transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again. Shake off excess water and transfer the kale to a work surface and chop roughly.
Meanwhile, cook rigatoni according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup (60 ml) of pasta water, then drain the pasta.
Transfer kale to a blender or food processor. Add garlic and pine nuts and pulse until coarsely chopped. Drizzle in oil and process until smooth.
Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in 2/3 of Pecorino, lemon juice and lemon zest. Season to taste with chili flakes, salt and black pepper.
Transfer drained pasta to the large bowl with the pesto and toss well adding the reserved pasta water as needed to get a creamy consistency.
Test for extra seasoning and lemon juice and serve with more shredded pecorino and red pepper flakes.