Winter Penne Pasta

An inherited produce box packed with greens inspired this simple, one-pot winter penne pasta with a sauce made from a full bunch of kale, shallots, garlic, and goat cheese.

Winter Penne Pasta

This winter penne pasta was inspired by the contents of a produce box. I seem to inherit CSA boxes. Friends and neighbors forget to put holds on their subscriptions before leaving town, and sure enough, they end up in my kitchen. When I was a kid there was a house that was always happy to take in stray animals, I've become the equivalent for CSA boxes. And I have to say, it's pretty great.

penne pasta made with winter greens like kale and goat cheese on a floral plate

That said, cooking through a box is always a challenge of sorts. I mean, you want to cook your way through it before things start to go bad, sad or wilted. This always forces me to adapt and try out ideas I might not have considered otherwise. You also have the element of surprise that comes along with each box because you never know exactly what will be inside each one. Although, there is one thing I do know. The box, whichever farm it comes from, usually includes lots and lots of greens - kale, spinach, lettuce, chard, arugula. If I’m lucky, all of the above.

Winter Penne Pasta: Inspiration

Tonights box? A quick glance told me I would need to put a dent in the greens right away. That was the tone setter. Everything else I grabbed from staples in nearby cupboards and the refrigerator. It all came together into this simple, one-pot, winter penne pasta. The sauce is made from one bunch of kale, shallots, garlic, and goat cheese blended.  It creates a vibrant green sauce to coat the penne, offering a nice alternative to tomato sauce, mushroom ragù, or pesto.

green sauce in food processor to pour over penne pasta

Winter Penne Pasta: Variations

You might tweak it with a different cheese - Parmesan or pecorino, for example. Or even ricotta. You could top it with a some chopped black olives or toasted nuts. I kept it simple here. You can reheat any leftovers the next day, with a splash of water. The pasta holds up nicely. Penne is a nice shape to hold the green sauce, but a second favorite choice is actually a version with gnocchi in place of the pasta.

I know a lot of you subscribe to CSAs and I'd love to hear your favorite ways to use up your greens. I have a bunch of go-to green-intensive recipes I rely on, but if you're doing something unique or unexpected with them on your end please share. I suspect Melissa Clark's kale salad will continue to be in high rotation around here all winter. I keep making it, in part because unlike other green salads that go south shortly after being dressed, this kale salad likes to party. It's delicious, and just gets better as it sits around, fully dressed, waiting for people to notice it. Other favorites? You can't go wrong with a hefty pot of Ribollita - I trade off between that and various takes on this lentil soup to which I add lots of chopped kale.

penne pasta made with winter greens like kale and goat cheese on a floral plate

More Pasta Recipes

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Winter Penne Pasta

5 from 2 votes

I used penne here for the past element, but you can substitute whatever pasta you enjoy! Spinach can be substituted for the kale if you like as well.

  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4 small shallots, peeled
  • 1 small bunch of kale - 1/2 lb / 8 oz, stalks removed, washed well
  • 1/3 cup / 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup / 2 oz goat cheese, plus more for topping
  • 2 tablespoons+ hot pasta water
  • fine grain sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh lemon juice - optional
  • 12 oz / 340 g dried penne pasta
  • a few sprigs fresh thyme (with pretty flowers even better)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water generously, and add the garlic and shallots. Boil for 2-3 minutes, stir in the kale and cook for another ten seconds. Don't overcook. Working quickly, use a slotted spoon or strainer to fish the greens, garlic, and shallots from the water.
  2. Use a food processor to puree the ingredients along with the olive oil and goat cheese. Add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water if needed to thin things out. Season with a touch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Taste. Depending on your goat cheese, you might need a little extra acidic oomph if your sauce is a bit flat. If so, add fresh lemon juice a bit at a time until you're happy with it the sauce. Set aside.
  3. Reheat the pot of water and boil the pasta per package instructions. Drain and toss immediately with the green sauce. Serve topped with a few pinches of fresh thyme, and more crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 4-6.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Recipe Rating


don't neglect freezing hardy greens. wash well, spin VERY dry. shred into ribbons or cut into useable sized pieces, then into a good freezer bag; squeeze out extra air. use directly from the freezer into soups/ stews, casseroles, stir fry, or over roasted. in new england, putting up 'extras' for january and february is VITAL!! there is no such thing as too much in a CSA. :) HS: I have to admit, I has never occurred to me to freeze greens. I'm totally intrigued! Thanks for the great tip Ollie.


kale is a staple in my kitchen, mostly used for sautéing and in salads though. this looks absolutely incredible...cannot wait to try it out!


African Pineapple Peanut Stew from Moosewood Cooks at Home. Basically saute onion and garlic until lightly browned, add one 20 oz can crushed pineapple and 1 or 2more bunch kale, simmer 5 minutes covered. Add 1/2c cup peanut butter, 1 T Tabasco and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. I eat it over couscous. SO GOOD. People at work always ask what smells so good when I bring it in. Also love the Green Soup with Ginger recipe you've posted.


A basic saag paneer can handle a whole lot of different types of greens. Chard paneer, Kale paneer, beet green paneer is quite nice too.


I always appreciate your quantities of an ingredient being listed by weight, it's hard to estimate two small bunches when I'm picking Kale from the garden! Thank you.


Unfortunately I don't have as wonderfully forgetful friends as you and hardly ever fresh stuff lying around except for my eleventy seventh basil crop this year :) I have been hankering for some pesto and also had some frozen spinach calling my name and along comes your recipe. I made a big batch of pesto and kept about 2 tblsp. in the food processor, then added the spinach, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, goat cheese and processed that while the pasta was boiling. Then added some lemon juice and pasta water. I cubed up a nice slice of tomato basil bread and made some croutons. I am in the middle of eating bowtie pasta with the green goodness, parmesan cheese and croutons. I think I might need a nap here in a few. Thanks Heidi :)


Ribolita! Our favorite way to use up kale! Or I saute it in olive oil with onions, garlic, pepper flakes and a hefty splash of balsamic vinegar and serve it over pasta, couscous or farro.


another vote for kale chips! Heidi, it sounds like you got an Eatwell this week; in 3 years of subscribing, I don't think I've ever had as many greens as came in this week's box!


You're making me miss the UK :( I've never seen kale in Saudi Arabia. We can get spinach and beetroot greens, and fennel greens too. But in my mind, nothing beats the crunch of kale and that deep green colour.


Sheeesh. You guys are better at this than I am! So many great suggestion - smoothies, flatbreads, soups.... Keep them coming! -h


Our CSA had a great collection of greens recipes on the website at one point, I can't seem to find it now. My favorite was a very quick african greens which used one bunch of greens. I think it starts with the usual, oil, onion, garlic, add cumin, coriander, crushed pepper, cook...add chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned, and two tbsp peanut butter, Add your chopped greens, cook covered, finish with some lemon, salt to taste. (may need to add a tbsp of water if seeming too dry) Wish I could find that link, but this is the basics of it, follow your intuition and it is a nice, saucey, dish. Serve with grain of choice


Hi Heidi, We eat greens in India in Dozens of different ways - every family has its own take on classical recipes( like the one below) and every state and region has at least 5 ways to cook the same greens, based on locally available ingredients! and the recipes again change based on season. So, i have eaten at least 2 dozen spinach ways in India, depending on the state and season!


This pasta looks delicious! I love pesto, but it's often hard to find a good vegan recipe. Do you think it would still be good without the feta? I like the idea of using kale though -- I always have some in the fridge come winter.


This is a great recipe to make at my clients' homes - to teach them another way to use powerful greens! thanks!

edie Shaw-Ewald

This is a great recipe to make at my clients' homes - to teach them another way to use powerful greens! thanks!

edie Shaw-Ewald

Hi! I am a member of our local CSA and I love greens! Broccoli greens, kale, spinach, you name it! A particular favorite recipe that I have enjoyed since a child is sauteing butter and minced garlic together and then letting the green wilt in the mixture. It's quite delicious!


Arugula is great, uncooked, on top of margherita pizza as well as stirred into hot ravioli with parmesan cheese and spices, They do it in Italy al the time.

Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

This pasta looks lovely. We grow kale, cavolo nero, silverbeet and rainbow chard in our vege garden so are always on the lookout for new ways to eat them! I like to wilt big handfuls in olive oil or ghee, with chilli flakes, sea salt and plenty of pepper. Serve on toast spread with herb labne. Wish I got given stray CSA boxes! Lucky you :-)


Yep once I started growing Kale, I broke up with Chard.

Tall Clover

We have a similar organisation here in Australia called Food Connect. I am a big fan - and not just because it gets me out of going to the dreaded supermarket, but also because I know I am doing something good for the farmers and the environment by buying organic. This is such a vibrant dish - it looks fantastic!


that pasta looks lovely! i love your recipes!

the blissful baker

heidi .. you do a wonderful job presenting healthy whole foods in a way that is mouth watering! this kale pasta looks + sounds epic! i'm so excited to try it .. i love your email updates .. always brightens my day! your website is simply elegant! your doing fabulous things .. mahalo from hawaii!


Wow, what a timely post for me. I was going to make pasta with goat cheese and kale tonight. This gives me a little extra inspiration. It looks delicious and healthy as always. Love greens. Looking forward to lots of them this winter. Cheers everyone.


This looks like something I could get into. If the greens are easy...the kale, chard, spinach, and collards I like them warm with garlic, sesame, soy, and balsamic. Or sauteed with sun-dried tomatoes. But if they are of a bitter or peppery sort--the turnip greens, the mustard, the radish, I stress, and start making odd quantities of pesto, or sneaking them into soups in small bunches. Someone mentioned lettuce and cold temperatures...lightly wilted lettuce is actually lovely, a winter remedy to what is usually a warm weather friend.

Amanda at Enchanted Fig

That looks fabulous! I just bought a bunch of kale yesterday, pasta is a great idea! Love the wintery theme; I think a red vegetable would compliment this dish.

J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog)

I add kale to EVERYTHING! I make a great chicken, kale and wild rice soup with parsnips, onions and a little garlic for added flavor. I highlight with white wine vinegar and tarragon. My youngest says it's his favorite!


I've never tried anything like this before - a pasta sauce from kale! I'll definitely be trying this one!


What a great way to use up all those greens! It looks really delicious (and like something my kale-hating husband might actually go for)! Usually if I have any extra or any beginning to wilt I stash them in my "scraps bag" in the freezer and make vegetable stock when the bag is full.


Massaged Kale and Currant Salad from Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family is a fun recipe, lasts for days, improves with age, and is a great conversation piece at potlucks. ("Did you really have to massage it?")


I love fresh greens! My Mom always made us something called "wilted lettuce", which isn't really wilted. Mom's recipe says use green leaf lettuce, but I don't know why you couldn't use kale or some other fresh greens. Wash lettuce, and cut into pieces (she tore the leaves into long strips). Cut up (or dice) new onions and add to lettuce. Sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle with vinegar. Heat olive oil to steaming, being careful not to overheat or allow to catch on fire. Pour the oil over the lettuce and stir to mix. I could eat a CSA box full of greens prepared this way. I call it "snack crack" - it's so addictive!


I adore kale - but not everyone around here shares that feeling. But I bet all mixed up with yummy cheese and pureed, my family will actually eat their greens! Yum!


This look fabulous, and will be a great way to use up the gorgeous kale in my garden. We get a lot of greens in our CSA, and we eat most of them as salads (and kale in soups). The only thing I can't deal with is chard -- just cannot bring myself to enjoy that icky leaf. A few nights ago, we made the kale salad you posted -- it was absurdly delicious. That recipe is a keeper, for sure.


I have a daughter who is allergic to pine nuts so I've been experimenting with new versions of pesto. So far the best is almonds, young rocket (old is too bitter), parmesan, garlic and olive oil. Of course, they don't really go in for pesto in Bologna...

Martin Yarnit

This looks delicious Heidi. Kale is one of my favorite veggies and I love it raw almost better than cooked. Most mornings I throw a big handful or two of kale in a blender with water, blueberries, a banana, a little yogurt and a touch of cinnamon and syrup. It is delicious and nutritious. Two of the three little ones in the house devour it and always ask for seconds! I love your website and have made so many of your recipes and recommend it to everyone looking for a good recipe!


what I would do for just one CSA box! this pasta sounds amazing - it's nice to see a sauce that isn't creamy, tomato, or pesto.


My husband and I run a CSA and we have tons of recipes for greens, but it never seems to be enough for our members. We are constantly asked for good recipes they can use up their greens with. Actually my current blog post is all about our love of greens. This recipe is something I will start suggesting to our members. Thanks!


Again, a WINNER! Had a bunch of kale (can't sell it raw -- my fave salad--to anyone in my house), and this was the PERFECT vehicle. SO GOOD. Little man devoured two servings over orchiette w/shaved parmesan. Gorgeous color, too!


Kale is not such a big thing here, but I love chard and spinach - soups like Anna Thomas's Green soup that you posted some time ago are nice ways to use up greens. I agree with Emm too - being the recipient of lovely vegie boxes is not a bad problem to have!


Of course, kale chips! Toss cleaned DRY kale in olive oil and flakey sea salt and throw into the broiler for 4 or 5 minutes on a cookie sheet. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn. It's the most delicious snack. You can try fancy salt too, a bit of lemon or cayenne pepper. Mmmmmm.


I always love a new recipe with kale! Such a gorgeous colour. Thanks for sharing.

The Bounty Hunter

Oh, I just bought a whole bunch of kale from the farmer's market! I don't have any penne though... but I just stocked up on soba. So I might do a soba bowl, using sesame oil and adding some fresh ginger to the mix as well!


This looks fantastic! I have some local goat cheese in the fridge - looks like this will be it's destiny!

Lisa @ simplifying the simple life

Inheriting a lot of CSA boxes seems like a good problem to have.

Jen @ keepitsimplefoods

Heidi, this pasta dish looks SO hearty and heart warming. I happen to be getting ready to headout to the market and MUST get the ingredients! Anything with goat cheese and kale ROCKS in my book! -Mary

Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary)

This pasta looks so wonderful ... and healthy! I just posted a Sephardi Pickle recipe that you may like ... it will use some of your cabbage greens, but also cauliflower, carrots, and any other good veg you think to combine...


kale pesto...that sounds delicious, I really need to join a CSA, It looks like such a great way to produce creativity

Beth @kitchen minions

Thanks shallot!


I love kale, but it is the other greens I have a hard time with. Sometimes beens & greens with caramelized onions is nice and I also have a good Collard Green Pesto recipe which is nice. Can't wait to hear everyone's suggestions.


This looks amazing! I just made some pesto last week to use up a bunch of my fresh herbs before they die. I also dry them as well, so I can have them all winter.


This looks and sounds fantastic. I was wondering, I recently bought some fresh lavender leaves and I'm not sure how to use them. Do you think I could sub them for thyme in this recipe? Or do you have any other suggestions?


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