Baked Tortellini with Kale Pesto

When planning a modern, Italian dish, it makes sense to add pesto. Today, pesto comes with a variety of greens in it. The pesto itself doesn’t really relate to what’s included, but more about how it’s made. Instead of using basil for this pesto, you add pureed kale, olive oil, grated cheese and of course, garlic.

This isn’t a light meal, but it’s simple to make and a family favorite. Everyone will beg for more of this ooey-gooey dish.

History of Tortellini

The legends state that Tortellini came from the shape of Venus’s navel. This goddess was involved in a battle with Zeus against Bologna and Modena. The Italian story talks about how the involvement made the pair weary, so they ate a large dinner, got slightly drunk and shared a bedroom.

The innkeeper crept into the room, but all he saw was Venus’s navel. Spellbound by what he saw, he rushed to the kitchen to create a new pasta, thereby birthing the tortellini.

This ring-shaped pasta is also known as a belly-button shape. It comes from Emilia and often features a meat stuffing. In Italy, common inner options include pork loin, Mortadella, raw prosciutto, egg, nutmeg and Parmigiano Reggiano. You’ll find tortellini served in chicken broth as well as with traditional Italian dishes.

Tortellini comes industrially packed, dried, refrigerated and frozen, but it’s also homemade by many pasta enthusiasts.

Unique Characteristics of Tortellini

Tortellini is often confused for tortelloni, but the two are quite different. Tortelloni is larger and features a different method of closing the extremities. They also tend to come with ricotta and herbs inside instead of meat.

Furthermore, tortellini is typically cooked in broth and sometimes served with it. Tortelloni, on the other hand, gets cooked in water and then stir-fried with sage and butter. It’s normally served dry.

Baked Tortellini with Kale Pesto Recipe

(taken from //

Total: 40 min

Yield: 4 Servings


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 12- to 14-ounce package spinach and cheese tortellini
  • 7 cups baby kale (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1 – Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook as the label directs. Reserve ¼ cup cooking water, then drain. Reserve the pot.

2 – Meanwhile, puree 4 cups kale, the olive oil and garlic in a blender or food processor until almost smooth. Add ¼ cup parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth, adding up to 1/4 cup tap water if needed.

3 – Transfer the pesto to the reserved pot along with the heavy cream; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low; stir in the tortellini, sun-dried tomatoes and the remaining 3 cups kale, adding the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the mozzarella.

4 – Combine the panko, pine nuts, parsley and the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the tortellini and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

This first video we have describes the process of making a vegan super green kale pesto.

Another option to consider is the spinach tortellini with peas and pesto.


Obviously, there’s no limit to the ways you can alter this recipe to fit your family’s needs. If you don’t enjoy sun-dried tomatoes, the dish works fine without it.

You can also kick up the seasonings slightly to enhance the flavors you like. Consider adding some mozzarella or taking out the nuts and bread crumbs. Play with the recipe until you find the combination that works for you.

Don’t forget to experiment with other pasta options as well. Here’s an example of Rigatoni with Kale Pasta instead.

Enjoy the Meal

When your family craves a hearty plate of pasta but doesn’t want the traditional tastes, this concoction hits the spot. It’s the perfect comfort food for the middle of winter and provides plenty of flavors, ready to impress.