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

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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


I have been eating a lot of greens with garlic or shallots lately, steamed or sauteed, and I've been getting a little tired of it, this recipe is just what I've been looking for! Thank you!

Erica Newhouse

This probably isn't new news to anyone who follows your site, but my household absolutely loves the Palak Daal you posted this past January. We substitute in any and all combinations of greens that come in our CSA box in lieu of the spinach the recipe calls for. It's always fantastic!


Sounds delicious and I love the way you make healthy eating gooooood! You should enter some recipes in the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge: "Let's Move!, in association with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is challenging school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents and interested community members to create tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country." Lord knows our school lunch programs could use more recipes like yours!


I'll try this tonight. Thank you!


This recipe actually has me totally looking forward to winter! I'm just imagining myself snuggled on the couch with a big bowl of this and a glass of red wine (in sweatpants obvi!). Yay!


I just made this recipe and it is delicious! I did make one substitution - leeks in place of shallots. This was only b/c I needed to use the leeks before they went bad.


Beautiful. Love the idea of working with what you have. Almost like a kale pesto...

Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes

Ok, we got to try this last night, it was delicious! I used half a white/sweet onion instead of shallots, and my blender couldn't quite chop the kale so tiny, but it was really good!

Nicole W

When faced with a mountain of extra greens, I make Moosewood's Greens and Sun dried Tomato strudel recipe (epicurious) or a variant thereof. Wrapped tightly and stored in the freezer it makes a great "instant" lunch entree or dinner appetizer.

Dana Dolan

ooo - yum love pesto mixed through pasta. Goats cheese would give that delicious tang too!

jas@ gluten free scallywag

I like CSAs, although I would love to get leftover CSAs but it has not happened just because not many I know are in to CSA. I love this winter pasta recipe with Kale, it looks so yummy!

Pam @ Kitchen Cookware Set

I roast a sweet potato and saute the kale or greens with garlic and chili flake. The sweet of the sweet potato and the bitter of the greens are great together. Plus, it is an antioxident punch for dreary winter days.


This recipe looks great! 2 things: Mrs. Debbie's green bags REALLY help extend the life of my fresh produce. They are totally worth the $10. I love to saute my greens with a little sesame oil or bacon fat, and lacto-fermented jot peppers. Top with soft-boiled eggs, sea salt, and fresh-cracked pepper.


Love this recipe! Looking forward to making it VERY soon!!

What Happens After Five

We don't subscribe to a CSA, but we eat lots of greens, too. Adding any kind of green, chopped, into a big pot of minestrone is a favorite of ours in the wintertime. The kids also love "Dad's world-famous spinach" which is just spinach sauteed with red onion or garlic (or both!) in olive oil with salt and pepper. Simple but satisfying,, and we've done that with kale, collard greens, chard and chicory (from the garden) too. Can't wait to try this take on pasta. I'll have to substitute the cheese, though, since the kids and hubby aren't big fans of goat cheese.

Annie-Savor This Moment

it seems to me that the best thing to do is make pesto! I don't have the luxury (or the stress, depending on how you look at it) to get more than my own CSA share, so i usually go through all of it without having to make the "use up" recipes. my problem is with the veggies i hate (brussels sprouts don't taste good to me no matter how much bacon or cheese get added), and i have to put them on someone else ;).

heather @ chiknpastry

made this tonight and it was a hit with my family! i threw in the leaves off of a few springs of fresh oregano and a 1/2 cup of cooked butternut squash into the food pros. with everything else! delish!


I like to make "chips" with greens. I've tried using kale and collards so far, but I have some bok choy from my CSA box I will either make into chips or use in a miso soup. Making chips is an easy way to use a lot of greens quickly because you can eat them as a snack. I've eaten a bunch of kale in one day in the form of chips. Yum!

Amy @ People's Gourmet

Thank you for this new way to use greens! I did it with beet greens and it turned the pasta a delightful pink, while the "pesto" stayed green. How fun!


I used a little less garlic, no shallots (didn't have them) and subbed spinach for kale. It was a gorgeous green and so tasty. I couldn't get enough of the green so I added steamed broccoli and tossed with angel hair. Yum. Also a good way to get others to eat their greens! HS: LOVE this idea Laura. Maybe with a few toasted walnuts? I'm all over this.


Mmm mmm mmm. I wonder if there's a brand of whole wheat pasta that is preferred? I've been buying the store brand and it's good, but any recommendations are welcome.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

Goat cheese always makes me happy. I love the creamy, tangy flavor of goat cheese, but I also love a salty, crumbled feta.

Katie at Healthy Pots and Pans

I second the endorsement of Molly's boiled kale. Sounds awful. Is amazing!


We made this on Sat. It was delicious! My 5 yr old twins loved it.


Chard is delicious chopped and sautéed with other veggies then used as a layer in lasagna. Arugula works OK too, but it makes the dish bitter rather than sweet. Since we're in CA and it was 95 degrees last week, we're still making smoothies here. That's the best way, I think, to use up a big handful of spinach. Just blend it with the liquid first until very fine, and you're set!

Nicole W

Chard pesto is a personal favorite. I make a huge batch and freeze it in ice cube trays, so I can easily use as much as I need later. While I have several kale salads I like, my go-to kale action is to saute it with oil and balsamic vinegar. I eat it this way with poached eggs on top, in pasta salads, in quesadillas, or just as is. I never tire of it. My favorite use for beet greens is in a quiche with feta and cheddar. It beats any other green in this venue for flavor.

Michelle in Oregon

Excellent site! Thanks for this recipe ... I recently started doing variations on "getting a great amount of your greens" by way of creating sauces (and freezing them). I love homemade treat of pasta with spinach and feta! I also recently made a simple spelt bread loaf which I'm committed to taking from 'edible' to 'enjoyable' ... really enjoy your layout and recipes. Very inspiring, thanks.


There's a similar recipe in Moosewood Cooks at Home that I've made which uses ricotta instead of goat cheese. Really yummy! Just bought some kale today...

Jessica @ bake me away!

I would never think to use the kale in a pasta sauce. We love when we get kale in our CSA box - kale chips! But we'll definitely try this recipe - thanks for a great idea!


This winter pasta recipe is a dream! My parent's vegetable garden is overflowing with spinach & kale (i'm v jealous!!), so i will definitely be making this. Just beautiful, thank you. Heidi xo

Heidi - apples under my bed

Looks great! I love goat cheese with dark greens.


Using up cooking greens is never an issue for me (using up five giant bags of lettuce that I got this week is daunting, on the other hand). Both, my husband and I love kale, but I feel that it needs to be blanched for about 3 minutes before it is sauteed or added to pasta -- at least the kale that I have encountered in my CSA box is way too leathery to just saute w/out blanching (or, maybe I should have just left it to saute longer than I did?) Anyway, my #1 use of kale is your harissa spaghettini recipe -- I think it's my favorite pasta of all times, and it tastes good as leftovers as well. If I am interested in a side dish, rather than a one-pot meal, I often omit the pasta in this recipe altogether and just increase the amount of kale. I use jar Moulin Mahjoub Organic Traditional Harissa Spread and put about 2 heaping tea spoons per recipe of the pasta, as it might be spicier than the harissa that's in the original recipe.


I like to look at certain recipes to see how ingredients are combined - and maybe I can use a similar combination of elements in a totally different dish. In this one it's the idea of kale, goat cheese and lemon. Very piquant and might be the start of a nice holiday ball with pine nuts and roasted garlic. It's a start! *smile*

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie

Heidi, This is a terrific sounding recipe that I will definitely try. Have you seen the latest cookbook from Andrea Chesman? I just reviewed it up here in Canada and would highly recommend it to anyone. It has 30 recipes in it which use kale. She also introduced me to a vegetable I'd never heard of before--salsify. The book is titled Recipes from the Root Cellar. HS: Hi Betty, It is top of my list of cookbooks to buy. Andrea actually copy-edited Super Natural Every Day - thank you Andrea! She is one of my grammar guardian angels. Definitely looking forward to spending time with her book this winter - 30 recipes w/ kale? Excellent.

Betty Kowall

Just a comment on freezing kale. I've frozen kale that was cut into ribbons as Ollie does above. It's a great solution if you have more fresh kale than you can use. In my experience, I've found that it becomes a little leathery when frozen. I ended up chopping the frozen kale finer in order to add it to recipes. Then you get the taste and goodness and you don't notice the texture. Another fantastic recipe for kale for non-vegetarians (we cook both ways in our house) is from Deborah Krasner's The Flavors of Olive Oil cookbook: 'Whole wheat gobbetti with red pepper, poultry sausage with sun-dried tomatoes and kale'. (Red bell pepper, sun-dried tomato poultry sausage, olive oil, garlic, red onion, kale, whole wheat gobbetti pasta, potato and parmesan.)


Just made this with Pecorino cheese. Loved the strong kale flavor and the simplicity of the recipe!

tiina { sparkling ink }

Have you tried Zuni Cafe's boiled kale? SO delicious, and great on cold nights.


What a wonderful way to eat all of these glorious greens!! And so easy to prepare too!

Nourished Living

A favorite recipe for a large bunch of chard, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey: saute chopped onion in 3 T. of butter, add in frozen baby lima beans, chopped chard and 1/4-1/2 c. chopped fresh dill and 1/4 c. water and cook until everything is tender, about 15-20 min. It sounds a little odd, but it's delicious! We eat it over brown rice.


i just made this as well and also used pecorino, as well as the goat cheese. i added a splash of red wine vinegar instead of lemon. delish!


I made this for dinner last night, so yummy. The leftovers were even better. And my 2 year old daughter loved it too. Thanks so much.


We just picked up our own CSA box today, and it included no fewer than four (!) separate huge batches of greens (turnip, kale, arugula, and more kale). I couldn't be happier. Some will land in a Portugese potato and kale soup, which should warm up one of our sub-zero nights. More will end up braised with lots of garlic and olive oil, then warmed with chickpeas and a good hit of aleppo. All the aforementioned will be tossed with hot pasta, plus a little of its cooking water and plenty of pecorino. Mmmm...


I love this post because my husband actually talked me into canceling our CSA after years and years of being members. He just couldn't handle another winter of so many green potages, greens with sausage and goat cheese, tarts with sauteed greens. You know the drill. This sauce is really lovely and I'm always looking for a way to sneak more bitter greens into my husband's diet. I'll definitely try this one. X Sabrina PS so lovely to finally meet you last night.

Sabrina Modelle

I was just thinking how I really, really want some comforting pasta for dinner, but I also really really need to use up my kale and get my immune system back to normal.... the perfect solution! I'm making this right now.


Thank you, everyone! I took a whole page of notes from your comments for my recipe binder entitled "Kale" :). Heidi, thank you for doing what you do so eloquently.

Nanny Goat

Perfect timing!. In Homer, Alaska today we are getting a foot (at least) of snow and my deck garden still has dinosaur and Russian red kale growing in containers. Saw your kale pasta recipe and decided it was ideal for dinner. I tend to eat mostly vegan, my husband is not vegan, but is gluten-free. So I will make the basic kale sauce for both of us, cook whole wheat pasta for me, rice pasta for him, sprinke tosted nuts on my pasta, and he'll sprinkle parmesan on his. A wonderful dinner for us both on a snowy evening. THANKS!


Correction - the Okonomiyaki recipe from your *website :)


I chop up leftover greens and add them to the Okonomiyaki recipe from your recipe - yum!


I hardly use kale for sauces, but will try from now on.


I never had kale before, but I was so intrigued by this recipe. I made it for dinner tonight (using Parmesan cheese) and it was just fantastic. So simple and so tasty. I will definitely be making this again. Thanks, Heidi!


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