Giada De Laurentiis’ Gemelli With Kale Pesto and Olives Is a ‘Super Yummy and Hearty’ 30-Minute Meal

With the arrival of spring, it’s unofficially pesto season.

If you don’t have fresh basil on hand, or want to try a new spin on the classic Italian sauce, Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis‘ kale pesto with olives served over gemelli pasta is a refreshing, easy, and tasty meal you can make on any weeknight.

Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis
Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for NYCWFF

What makes De Laurentiis’ pesto pasta so zesty

Traditional pesto is rich and bright in flavor, thanks to fresh basil leaves. De Laurentiis’ pesto recipe here is made with kale and is just as bright-tasting, thanks to a few choice ingredients.

The pesto calls for walnut halves, raw garlic, baby kale, extra-virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, orange zest and juice, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

For the pasta in this dish, you’ll need gemelli pasta, shredded chicken meat from a rotisserie chicken, pitted and chopped red or green Cerignola olives, pitted and chopped kalamata olives, as well as more grated cheese.

Giada De Laurentiis’ pesto with gemelli is a quick weeknight meal

Gemelli pasta, the Italian-American chef explains in the recipe’s Food Network video, above, is “two strips of pasta that have sort of been twirled, spiraled together. So like two twins, which is what gemelli means in Italian.”

To emphasize what a quick meal this is, De Laurentiis points out that “the time it takes to make the pasta is the time it takes to make the sauce.”

The chef starts on the pesto, which she admits “is a little bit of a departure from a traditional pesto but super yummy and hearty. And I think it works really well with this pasta.”

Raw walnut, the garlic, and baby kale are placed in a food processor. “I really like [baby kale] because it’s more tender than regular kale. It’s great on salads, it’s great in pestos; I use it all the time. All of those things make it a plus in my book,” De Laurentiis adds.

Giada De Laurentiis offers another delicious spin on pesto sauce

She begins processing the three items “for a minute just to kind of break up the garlic, the walnuts, and the kale.”

Boosting the pesto’s flavor even more, the Simply Giada host adds the orange juice and zest to the processor, as well as salt, crushed red pepper, and the olive oil. “Got to have some really good extra-virgin olive oil,” she says. “You’re not cooking the sauce and it’s important for the pesto.”

Lastly, “nutty, buttery, salty” grated cheese is added and it’s all processed together until smooth and poured into a large bowl. The sauce is tossed with the shredded chicken, chopped olives, and hot pasta, and this meal is ready to serve.

Get the complete recipe, video, and reviews on Food Network’s site.

Reviewers praised De Laurentiis’ twist on classic pesto sauce

With its use of kale and its shot of citrus flavor, the culinary personality’s pesto sauce wowed home cooks who checked into Food Network’s site to rate her recipe. Even some reviewers who aren’t ga-ga over kale were impressed with this dish.

“Awsome [sic] dish! Kale is alright not a real fan, but this was great! It had a nutty garlicky taste. The chicken and parmesan with the olives gave it a nice layer of flavors along with that hint of orange. Thank you Giada – loved it,” wrote one fan of the dish.

Another home cook noted their switch-up of protein in the dish, “The orange is the perfect offset to the kale. I served with lump crab instead of rotisserie chicken. It was amazing. We’ll definitely have it again.”

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