Stuffed Shells with Kale Pesto

Reuben and I have been dating for 3 years, and for 3 years he has been telling me about how wonderful his mom's stuffed shells are. A box of jumbo pasta shells has been sitting at the very top of our cupboard for the last year and I got tired of seeing it and fantasizing about these mystical stuffed shells. 

K : "So, why haven't you made stuffed shells for me yet?!" 

R : "I'm trying to get licensed here, Kristina. I don't got no time to be stuffing shells."

K : "Oh right... I'm going to figure it out then!" (puts on pants and scurries off to accidentally buy spinach instead of basil for the pesto).

End scene.

Reuben and I moved into our sunny little apartment in the Inner Richmond a little over a year ago. Ever since then our cooking endeavors have been getting more and more elaborate. Getting crazy in the kitchen is a lot easier when you don't have a bunch of roommates to booty bump with. However, since we've moved in with each other, Reuben has been studying and taking his exams to become a licensed architect. That means 7 exams! Plus an extra special test if you want to be licensed in California. So that means my adventure buddy is stuck inside with his nose in a book or listening to some man drone on about structures for hours. He doesn't have time to stuff shells. He has 3+1 more tests to pass before he never has to study again! I can't wait! He'll make me so many pizzas and we'll go on so many hikes to burn off all the pizza!

It's all good though. I'm a strong independent woman fully capable of making my own stuffed shells. I got the recipe from Reuben's mom and started working! I decided to add a Kale Pesto to the mix because I've been loving Kale Pesto lately. It's so fresh and bright, I could put it on everything. You'll also notice that I used Thai Basil for my pesto. The Asian Market a block from our place sells really beautiful Thai Basil and pretty sad looking Italian Basil. It honestly, doesn't make that huge of a difference in terms of flavor. I might even say that Thai Basil tastes a little better!

When I ate one of these 4 cheese filled pasta pillows, I finally understood why Reuben loved them so much. They were so gooey and comforting. Yet somehow light and fluffy from the mix of Ricotta and Cottage Cheese. I convinced myself that these were semi-healthy or not super bad for you because of the amount of greens that were on my counter top when I first start. Look at it all! I just ignore that there are 4 different cheese in there...

Reuben was super satisfied and said it tasted like his childhood. Success!

Stuffed Shells with Kale Pesto

Kale Pesto :

1 Bunch of Kale (about 3 cups chopped)

1 Packed Cup of Basil

1/4 Cup Pinenuts

5 Garlic Cloves

1/4 C Olive Oil + 1 tsp for pinenuts

1/2 Parmesan Cheese

1 tsp Salt


Tomato Sauce :

28oz  Can of Crushed Tomatoes

6 Large Basil Leaves

1/4 Cup Olive Oil



Stuffed Shells :

1LB Jumbo Pasta Shells

3 Cup Chopped Fresh Spinach

8oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

8oz Cottage Cheese

1 egg

1 Medium White Onion - diced

3 Garlic Cloves

1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese + more for garnish

1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella 


Steps :

1. Start making the pesto by heating a tsp of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the pinenuts until golden brown. Add kale, basil, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, garlic cloves, and salt into a food processor or immersion blender. Pulse everything a little bit at a time and slowly add your olive oil. Add a little more olive oil if you want your pesto a little looser. Transfer pesto to a small bowl or container and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta shells and cook for 2 minutes less than instructed.

3. Make a simple tomato sauce by simmering your crushed tomatoes with fresh basil and olive oil. Let your sauce slowly simmer for 20 mins. Season with salt and pepper. You could also use your favorite pasta sauce if you don't want to make your own.

4. To make your pasta filling, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet to medium high heat and sauté the diced onions and garlic until soft. about 5 minutes. Add chopped spinach to the pan and cook until wilted. About 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a bowl and allow to cool.

5. Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, and 1 egg in a medium bowl. Mix to combine and add cooled onion and spinach mixture. Mix in parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add a layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Start stuffing your shells by adding a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling to each shell. Arrange your shells in the pan until full. Add the remaining tomato sauce and pesto in between the gaps and on top of the shells. Top the whole dish with mozzarella and sprinkle of parmesan.

7. Cover the baking dish with foil and baked covered for 25 mins. After 25 mins, remove foil and baked uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to brown.

8. Let cool and enjoy!

Cold Sesame Noodles with Blistered Edamame

Is this whole daylight savings thing making anyone else feel super weird?

Let's recap the last 24 hours: I met the most adorable corgi puppy in the shampoo aisle of Target and it barked at me, which caused me to frown throughout the rest of the shopping trip. I accidentally sneezed on a man while at the the asian market, we were both horrified. I accidentally bought a bunch of spinach instead of basil for my pesto. Ugh, what's wrong with me?!

Despite the last 24 hours being weird, this last week had some pretty sweet highlights. I spent a whole weekend eating, drinking, and looking at art with one of my dear friends, Michael! I played battleship for the first time ever and might have broke a world record for the longest battleship match. Reuby and I had our 3 year anniversary! We celebrated with an omakase dinner at Wako. IT WAS AMAZING. I can't really articulate how it tasted or even tell you what we had, but we sat chef side and it was great. AND it feels like summer time in San Francisco! It smells like summer and I love it. I hope it lasts a while and doesn't start raining and hailing again like last weekend. 

I whipped up these Cold Sesame Noodles for lunch on Saturday and it was a great meal for a warm day. I used dried udon, but you can also make this with rice noodles or even soba noodles. This sauce is flavor packed! Nutty and creamy from the tahini, slightly spicy from the red chili flakes, and punchy from the ginger. I make a variation of this sesame sauce for so many different dishes and each time I wish I had a food processor. Unfortunately, we have zero space left in our kitchen. We are also seriously lacking in electrical outlets. One day! We will have a food processor and an abundance of outlets... and a corgi that won't bark at me.

I hope you all have a great week ahead! I saw that there is going to be a big winter storm on the other side of the country this week. Stay safe and warm friends and family! Enjoy the extra bit of light too. I'm pretty excited that there is still light out at 7pm. I was able to take pictures of our dinner at normal dinner time! 

Cold Sesame Noodles with Blistered Edamame

serves 2


1 9.5oz Package of Dried Udon - rice noodles work great too!

1/2 C Shelled Edamame

1 Shallot finely diced

2 Tbsp Sesame Oil + 1 tsp for shallot

1/4 tsp Red Chili Flakes

2 Tbsp Tahini

1 tsp Brown Sugar

2 Grated Garlic Cloves + 1 Clove chopped for Edamame

1 Tbsp Grated Ginger

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce

2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar

Toasted Sesame Seeds - Optional

Sliced Cucumbers - Optional

Scallions - Optional



  1. Start preparing your sesame sauce by finely dicing your shallot. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil in a skillet on medium heat. Cook shallots in sesame oil with red chili flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper until brown and soft. About 5 mins. Place in mortar and pestle and grind up shallots into a smooth-ish paste. ** If you have a food processor you can just add the cooked shallot with the ingredients in step 2 and mix it up in 20 seconds!
  2. Mix in tahini, grated ginger, grated garlic, and brown sugar until incorporated. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to the mix and whisk until your sauce has a smooth consistency. Season with a pinch of pepper. Let chill in the fridge until you're ready to assemble noodles.
  3. Boil noodles according to package instructions. Rinse noodles under cold water and set aside.
  4. Add 1 tsp olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. You want to make sure your skillet is hot! Add garlic and edamame to skillet. Cook until edges are golden brown and blistered. 5-7 minutes. Season with salt.
  5. In a large bowl toss noodles with half of the chilled sesame sauce. Add more sauce according to personal preference. Otherwise save for another meal! Sauce will keep in the fridge for 3 days.
  6. Garnish noodles with sesame seeds, edamame, sliced cucumbers, and sliced scallions. Add some Sambal too if you like it hot!
  7. Serve and enjoy!


Tree Collard, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Tartlets + City Slicker Farm

Farm Snaps

Happy weekend everybody! The weather people are predicting rain in San Francisco over the weekend : ( hopefully it's only a light drizzle and won't damper my sight-seeing plans with my dear friend Michael! I love having friends visit, it allows me to be a tourist in my own city and forces me to not be a hermit painting radishes all day.

I wanted to share with you all one of the best afternoons I've had in a really long time. Like I said, I've been hiding out too much at my apartment on the weekends working on watercolors and recipes for the blog. So last weekend it was really great to get out in the sun and be surrounded by vegetables IRL and pretty chickens! I was in heaven. I couldn't handle it. I organized a volunteering event at City Slicker Farms for my firm. It is an amazing urban farm located in West Oakland. We cut down a huge patch of Fava plants and cut them into the ground for new planting, cut grass to feed the chickens, planted baby spinach and tree collards, rebuilt and fortified a trellis for sweet peas (perfect job for Reuby!), and transported a ton of manure. To be honest I volunteered for the low impact jobs like cutting grass for the chickies and planting tree collards... I know myself. Reuben obviously volunteered for the high impact heavy duty work, cutting down Fava, trellis building, shoveling manure...

In between tasks, I ended up just floating around the farm playing with the chickens (I have about 8,674,524,576 photos of chickens on my phone now), staring at all the gorgeous vegetables, chatting with the neighbors, and eating the free farm samples. Again, I WAS IN HEAVEN. The farm was really a community gathering spot. In addition to the farm, it has a playground, bbq area, demo kitchen, and adorable farm stand. It was literally something I would have loved to design in architecture school. The amount of community energy there was invigorating. I loved seeing all the families, especially the little kiddos running around the garden and climbing mountains of mulch.

The farm manager, Joseph, was just a joy to work with. He was full of so much humor and knowledge about all things agricultural, plus more I'm sure. He taught me the history of the Tree Collards and how easily it can grow. It's the official vegetable of Richmond, CA! When people were migrating from the South to Northern California during WWII they were able to cut the woody stocks, travel with them, and then plant them right in the ground of where they settled and have sweet hearty greens to eat once they proprogate. I ate a few leaves right there and they were surprisingly sweet, I could have continued snacking on them. By that point I was starving and ready to head to Drake's Dealership for a beer and a personal pizza, so I saved the Tree Collards for later.

Reuben mentioned how the greens would be great with some sweet caramelized onions while in the car ride home. It was settled! We were going to make Tree Collard, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Tartlets, with Gruyere! That's a long name. This could easily be made into one big impressive tart if you're having a dinner party or fancy brunch at home. I like the idea of mini tarts because you can throw a leftover tart in your backpack in the morning before you sprint to catch the express bus. I'm all about that.

I'm so excited to send this recipe to Joseph, I hope I make him proud with my use of Tree Collards! : )

Tree Collard, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Tartlets

makes 8 mini tarts or 1 large tart

Materials :

1 1/2 C Chopped Tree Collards (any hearty green will work too)

2 Medium Onions

5 oz Goat Cheese

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Dried Thyme

Salt + Pepper

1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry (defrosted)

Gruyere Cheese

Steps :

  1. Peel and slice your onions into 1/4" slices. Pour olive oil into your pan or skillet and heat to medium heat. Not too hot! Add onions to skillet, season with a pinch of salt and pepper,  and cook over medium to medium low heat until caramelized. About 45-55 mins. Stir occasionally. Add a little bit more oil or turn down the heat if the onions start to char.
  2. While your onions are caramelizing, wash and chop your tree collards. Set aside in a small bowl.
  3. Place goat cheese in another small bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and thyme. Mix with a spoon. Set aside.
  4. Once onions are caramelized, place in a small bowl and let cool.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, layout the sheet of defrosted puff pastry. Cut sheet into 8 equal rectangles and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Top each tartlet with a layer of goat cheese first, then the tree collards, and finally the caramelized onions. Leave a 1/2" border around each tartlet.
  7. Cook in the oven for 20 mins. Take out and shave gruyere over the tartlets and put back in the oven for an additional 5-10 mins until golden brown and crispy.
  8. Take out, let cool, and enjoy!