Susan Gravely brings her Southern hospitality, along with tales and recipes from her new book, to our studio. In the visually stunning cookbook and memoir Italy on a Plate, Gravely shares memories and menus from 40 years spent developing a business in Italy and cooking with friends. Her recipe for pesto using Tuscan kale is excerpted below.


Tuscan kale (also called dinosaur kale) is sweeter and less bitter than curly leaf kale. If you can’t find Tuscan or Lacinato kale, you may substitute a similar amount of collard greens or cabbage, chopped into bite-size pieces.

Yields 10 to 12


1 bunch Tuscan, dinosaur, or Lacinato kale (about 1⁄3 pound), washed, and central stems removed

1⁄2 cup pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1⁄2 teaspoon sugar

1⁄3 cup grated pecorino cheese

1⁄2 teaspoon salt, plus enough for kale boiling water

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for toasting bread

1 baguette

Optional garnish: cooked cannellini beans

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the kale and boil for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain in a colander and squeeze dry using paper towels.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

Combine the cooked kale, pine nuts, garlic, sugar, cheese, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a food processor and process until blended. Add the olive oil in a steady stream and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Preheat the broiler.

Slice the baguette and place the slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush one side of the crostini with olive oil. Broil less than 1 minute, until toasted. Flip, and brush the other side of the slices with oil and toast less than
1 minute.

Spread the puréed kale on the crostini and top, if desired, with cooked cannellini beans.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Italy on a Plate By Susan Gravely (Vietri Publishing, 2023)

Photography credit Food Photos by Food Seen

Lifestyle Photos by Infraordinario Photo