Lunchbox – lemony kale pesto pasta with charred corn and cherry tomatoes

Little beats pasta right? I mean it’s got so much going for it:

  • Filling? Yep.
  • Easy to cook? Yep.
  • Ready in 10 minutes? Yep.
  • Keeps in the cupboard? Yep.
  • Lunchbox-friendly? Yep.
  • Delicious? Yep!
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All those things!

But before we dig in to a filling, easy to cook, ready in 10 minutes, keeps in the cupboard, lunchbox-friendly, delicious recipe, there are a few things I wanna talk to you about.

Pasta shells – A.K.A teeny tiny sauce boats

Let’s face it, penne and fusilli are the ‘popular’ ones. They’re the ones people use at home. They’re the ones you picture in your head when you think of a big bowl of pasta. Basically they’re the ones that get invited everywhere.

Then you’ve got the restaurants that like to look all fancy with their posh rigatoni or big fat ribbons that I’m sure are only used to make you look a fool. Face over the bowl, sauce on the chin kind of thing.

But the shells! Turns out the shells are what we should be using. Because when you add a scrummy sauce, which of course you do, it pools in the little shells and you get big delicious saucy mouthfuls that are like mini taste explosions when you eat them. Team that with teeny pieces of charred paprika corn and oh my goodness, need I say more?

Kale pesto pasta-9
Seriously, look at the shells!

Talking of corn

The next think we’ve all been doing wrong is buying the tinned stuff. It’s so plain and squishy and, is it me, or is it just the wrong kind of yellow!?

Tinned corn is dinner lady corn.

But fresh corn, rolled in olive oil, dusted with smoked paprika, sprinkled with salt and charred in the pan is food enthusiast corn. Corn porn! And it’s nowhere near as tricky as you think it might be. Cause you just heat a pan and whack in a cob and roll it around a few times until it’s cooked.

Kale pesto pasta-2
Yum paprika corn.

Then of course you make a mess when you slice it off the cob, but by that time you’re so looking forward to your smoky paprika charred corn that you don’t even care. You just scoop it up and stir it in and smile with pride and joy.

Lemony kale pesto

Okay, so I used kale in this, but you can totally make it with any other green, like spinach, or rocket, or a mixture of both. And if you don’t have almonds, replace with hazelnuts, or pine nuts or pecans. And if you don’t have basil, replace with parsley, or coriander. I mean granted if you change all of it I’m not sure it can still be referred to as pesto but who cares! As long as you’ve got a nutty greeny saucy thing on top you’re good to go.

P.S – shop-bought pesto is also great! If you can, find a nice fresh one with ingredients you recognise and would have at home, because a) it tastes better and b) it tastes better. But if not, grab what’s available and make up for it with an extra handful of spinach stirred in, or some steamed green beans on the side. Never sacrifice pasta for dinner. Never.

There’s also some cherry tomatoes in there

Because more mini taste explosions.

To the recipe!

Kale pesto pasta-6
Get a bowl as big as mine. You won’t regret it.


  • 2 tbsp pesto – lemony kale pesto recipe below, but you can use any pesto
  • 150g pasta
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cob of fresh corn
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of salt
  • Olive oil

For the lemony kale pesto:

  • 30g nuts – I used almonds, but walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pine nuts are all good
  • 50g curly kale (no large stems)
  • 60-80ml olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Large handful of fresh basil or parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Water as needed

Serves 2


Make it (more) green

Spinach | Green beans | Broccoli | Peas | Rocket

Make it cheesy

Grated parmesan | Crumbled feta | Fried halloumi

Make it meaty

Grilled chicken | Fried chorizo | Crispy parma ham



  1. To make the pesto – put the nuts in a food processor and blitz until breadcrumb consistency. Add 60ml olive oil and all the other ingredients and blitz again to combine. Add more olive oil if desired, plus a couple of tsps of water until you reach the desired consistency.
  2. Coat the cob of corn in olive oil, then sprinkle all over with the smoked paprika and salt. Heat a frying pan on a medium to high heat and, once hot, pop the corn into the pan. Turn every 4-5 minutes or once the corn is starting to char. This should take 15-20 minutes in total.
  3. Meanwhile, pop a pan of water on to boil, then add the pasta and a big pinch of salt. Cook as per the packet instructions or until al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta, pop back in the pan and add the pesto and cherry tomatoes. Slice the corn off the cob and add to the pan as well. Stir to combine.
  5. Top with fresh basil and a sprinkling of cheese if desired.

Samantha x

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