What Is Tuscan Pesto?

Ingredients for Tuscan ingredients

Short answer
Tuscan kale pesto (pesto Toscano) is a style of pesto popular in Tuscany. There's no official recipe for it, but the region is famous for its world-class kale, so it’s no great surprise that this has become the star ingredient in the local pesto.

Long answer
The kale that grows abundantly in Tuscany is called lacinato kale, but you'll also find it called dinosaur kale, Italian kale, and all manner of different names. Here in the UK, we call it cavolo nero, which translates as "black cabbage" due to its exceptionally dark green leaves.

Despite its colour, Tuscan kale has a mild, slightly sweet, and earthy flavour, which, for our tastes, is far superior to curly kale, which can too often be bitter. Cavolo nero is rich in iron, vitamins, and antioxidants and comes into season around late autumn to early winter.

Kale is the star ingredient in many of our favourite Tuscan dishes, particularly ribollita, a popular soup that consists of stale bread, cannellini beans, and tons of vegetables.

Kale pesto recipe

Ingredient Quantity
Olive oil 85g
Cavolo nero 70g
Parmesan 40g
Almonds 30g
Garlic x1 clove
Salt pinch
Lemon juice optional

How to make Tuscan pesto
Remove the woody stalks from the centre of each leaf and discard them. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for about one minute, then transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Blot dry with a sheet of kitchen towel and roughly chop.

Grate the Parmesan and add it, along with the kale, almonds, garlic, and salt, to a pestle and mortar or food processor. Work the sauce until you reach your ideal consistency.

Transfer everything to a mixing bowl and stir in the olive oil. Give it a taste and add a little lemon juice (or a little more salt) until it is seasoned to your liking.

For complete authenticity, serve with a traditional Tuscan pasta shape like testaroli, which many people believe to be the world's oldest pasta shape.