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

More Kale 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


Hi Heidi, So glad you gave us this recipe. I have a ton of spinach sitting around and no idea what to do with it. I'll be making this dish tonight! I also love that you can search by ingredient on your site. Thanks!

Erin from WHERE

Found your website a few days ago... LOVE IT! Just made this... yum! I didn't have shallots so I improvised but next time I will try to use the real deal. I'll also add something else (not sure what yet) to make it more of a meal... Super easy, super healthy dish... and quick too! Thanks!


wow! this has quickly become a favorite recipe, and one that opens the door to lots of variations. working now to prepare a few batches with kale from our last csa box to freeze for a cold night.


This is a fantastic recipe. I am going to be trying it with some homegrown arugula next. The spice of the arugula should be interesting.


My kind of recipe...easy and quick!


Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

laboratory technician

I added toasted walnuts and subbed in raw cashew, lemon, salt, and ground pepper for the goat cheese, to make this vegan. It was so creamy, cheesy, savory...amazing!


This was great! Next time I am going to add toasted walnuts to the food processor. I also wonder about adding white beans instead of the cheese for a vegan version. Just a thought. LOVE all the recipes I find here!


Hey Heidi, Made this tonight. I used an onion I had around instead of shallots though. It was great! Loved the flavor and texture. Served it on quinoa pasta and it was awesome. Thanks!


Made this tonight exactly how you suggested and my husband and I really enjoyed it. It was perfect with a side of chicken and pine nuts. I needed to use up some leftover kale and it was nice to use it in something that tastes so flavorful. I will make it again most definitely. THANK YOU!!

kate mcgill

Hey, This is a wonderful site and I specially loved the Winter Pasta receipe... I am planning to make it for dinner tonight. I have a little problem, I live in India and you dont get Kale here in this form. It is grown here very differently. Can you tell me if these is substitute for it? Also this would be my first attempt in my new kitchen :) Thanks HS: Shagun, try substituting another hearty green you like. Or spinach.


Mmm! I'm making this tonight - I grow my own Tuscan Kale and have it in abundance at the moment. I like to make a hearty tomato garlic base soup with plenty of different beans and good handfuls of the kale. Lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan is added at the table and crusty Italian bread to dip - yum.


Could I substitute chard for kale? I have loads of chard I've been trying to use up. HS: Hi Missy, yes, you can absolutely substitute chard if you like.


Just made this as a not-so-winter pasta! Used tortellini and roasted tomatoes, added the sauce, then chilled for a pasta salad. AMAZING! Great dish!

Anna Minnis

I made this tonight with spicy smoky goat cheese, 2 tbsp white miso paste, and siracha. Be sure to drain the kale very well, I wasn't careful and my sauce was a little watery. Paired with quinoa pasta. It was very good. It's a similar recipe to one I make all the time with broccoli and Parmesan cheese.


This looks hearty and delicious!

laura trevey

Holy crap, I am now just visiting your website today, and lo and behold, I just made this very dish on Sunday for my work lunch! It's so delicious. I did a few things differently: I only blanched the kale, and did so for about ten minutes. It was still quite firm, though. Then I didn't have any shallots, so I just used the garlic, sea salt, olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Oh yes, and ground toasted walnuts. I also added a dash of white pepper along with the black. But what took the sauce to another level were the cheeses. I used an aged goat cheese similar in texture to Parmigiano, and I also had a leftover chunk of Landaff. It really made the dish come together. I would absolutely make this again with a different green to explore the different textures.


Made this tonight. I love lemon juice, so I gave the sauce a couple of good squeezes even without tasting first. This is really good. Kale is so good for you, I'm always looking for a tasty way to use it. Great recipe.


I drink green smoothies nearly every day. When I have kale I usually throw some in my smoothie with my spinach and fruit. Yummy! It's great for your digestion. @ Gelsomina- you should be able to freeze the sauce without any problem. Pestos keep really well in the fridge or freezer.


My absolute favorite way to use up hearty greens is in some version -- depending on what I have on hand -- of Alice Waters' polenta torta from The Art of Simple Food. The torta is a layered affair: slow-cooked polenta, tomato sauce, grated cheese, sauteed greens. Repeat. Finish with a final layer of polenta and pop into the oven until golden brown and bubbling.


I found out a couple years ago I love kale. I live alone, and like to freeze things b/c I can't eat it all fast enough. Do you suppose I can freeze this sauce, or will it change the texture? Thank you, Gelsomina


Hi, This is a great recipe for pasta. I wanted to check, if Kale is not readily available, what other Leafy veggie can I substitute it with? Thanks. Lady from India.


Hi Heidi, Thank you for this delicious recipe. I put it over some ricotta gnocchi, and it was absolutely delicious. Even more so when I had the leftovers cold from the fridge as a midnight snack.


Thank you Heidi - this recipe is absolutely delicious - particulary over a soba noodle, with garlic bread and or a seafood ravioli. I used Cypress Grove Chevre with lavender and Fennel Pollen from Arcata which made it all the better! Thanks again! Beth

Beth Kenerson

This recipe is SOOO GOOD! I used kale, and watercress and spinach I had and it is ( I have to say again) so good! I did not have time to go buy goat cheese, so I used feta, which I really like. Thank you for the recipe...


Gr8 way to use up greens, Heidi!! I am always enthusiastic about buying them, but cleaning etc. is a chore and I always end up throwing some away 'coz I dont get to them in time. I love cooking rice in pureed spinach, kind of similar to the 'sauce' you have here. The rice cooks in this 'sauce' and takes on all the flavours!


Heidi, I think I've been following your blog for about 2 years now and I just wanted to THANK YOU!! I have not been disappointed by a single recipe! I bought Super Natural Cooking and have sent a copy to many many people for gifts. So happy to have you as a cooking resource! I tried this pasta last night and I'm SO impressed by it. Easy. Delicious. Something I'll DEFINITELY do again. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! HS: Thanks Becca, and I'm glad you enjoyed the pasta too.


Thanks to you and your wonderful blog, I LOVE kale. My family ( husband and two pre-teen daughters) were very hesitant to jump on the kale band wagon, but thanks to Ribolita and this recipe, they are slowly converting. Love, love, love it! Thanks! HS: Love getting notes like this!


Looks absolutely delicious. Thinking of conjuring this up for an addition to my Thanksgiving banquet.


While a lot of our CSA greens end up in soups and pasta dishes, I also like to stir fry them with Asian flavors to serve with rice or noodles. I find that mustard greens have a particular affinity for peanuts, and go well in brothy concotions with other mild or spicy greens.

Anne Marie

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