Penne with Kale, Roasted Tomatoes and Brie

A little bit of creamy brie cheese is all it takes to create a rich, creamy sauce for whole grain pasta. Sauteed kale and tomatoes brighten the flavor and hazelnuts add crunch. 

In case my last raw, vegan recipe featuring kelp noodles had you concerned I'd completely gone off the deep end, let me calm your fears with this gooey, cheesy bowl of pasta.

Were you aware that cheese is my favorite food? Anyone who has read more than a couple posts has surely heard of my cheese obsession. Honestly, if there were no health consequences, I could easily and happily subside on cheese. I love it that much.

Brie and other creamy, rinded cheeses are my absolute favorite. I have zero self control when it comes to a wedge of brie. In college, two of my sorority sisters hosted a wine and cheese party at their apartment and served baked brie. I thought I was being inconspicuous, picking a spot right next to it and sneaking extra bites when no one was looking. But at the end of the party, when there was just a little sliver left, my friend turned to me and said, "ummm, you can take that home with you if you want." Busted.

I have no regrets. There is zero sense in depriving yourself of the things you love. Not only does it set you up for a binge, but more importantly, your life will be just a little less joyful. In our efforts to lose weight or be healthy, people often overlook the importance of finding pleasure in the eating experience. Eating and savoring delicious food is one of the great gifts in our short life. Many of my clients are afraid to eat favorite foods out of fear of losing control. Certainly, that happens. But when you mindfully eat foods you love, you will feel satisfied and content, and likely find it needs a smaller amount of food to reach that level of satisfaction.

P.S. How gorgeous is that painted pasta bowl? Gift from my little brother who lives in Italy. I love it!

Penne with Kale, Roasted Tomatoes and Brie

Serves 4

The bitter kale and juicy tomatoes cut the rich cheese sauce perfectly, while hazelnuts enhance the nutty undertones in the brie. Still, feel free to substitute other types of greens, like beet greens (as the recipe originally calls for) or even spinach. I love the idea of using a soft cheese to create a creamy sauce - much easier than going through the work of creating a bechamel sauce. You could also use other types of soft, creamy cheese, like goat cheese. Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb 100% whole grain penne
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (a la Godfather)
  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces brie, rind removed, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss cherry tomatoes with 1-2 teaspoons olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven about 10 minutes, until tender, browned in spots and about to burst.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 9-11 minutes. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the salted pasta water in a glass measuring cup, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, rimmed pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the kale in handfuls. If the pan gets full of kale, wait for it to wilt a bit before adding more. If needed, add a quarter cup of water to the pan to help it steam. Mine didn't need it since the kale was still wet from washing it. Cook about 6-10 minutes, stirring every so often, until wilted, but with a bite. Add in the tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook another couple of minutes until about half the tomatoes have burst and released their juices. Add the cooked pasta and sliced brie and toss to combine. Pour in the reserved cooking water, a little bit at a time, while tossing pasta constantly to melt the cheese. I used a scant 1/2 cup to get a creamy, not too thin consistency.
  4. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and garnish with toasted hazelnuts.