Eating Your Greens: Penne with Swiss Chard Sauce

We’re always being told to eat more greens but let’s face it, how many of us actually do? I love vegetables but even I have a difficult time getting enough leafy greens into my diet.  Let’s not even talk about the stress I have trying to get a picky toddler to eat anything that’s green. Needless to say, it can be challenging to come up with something that pleases the whole family. There are plenty of ways to eat your greens-some like them straight up in salads, others juice them and some even hide them. We aren’t big fans of hiding veggies in our house, but no matter how good for you, a leafy green isn’t always an easy sell. My husband and I are committed to raising healthy eaters who appreciate and respect food, so we don’t give up that easily. It’s taken me some trial and error, but I found a method that seems to work for my family. Whenever I am introducing a new food, I try to prepare it as part of a familiar dish so that the new food doesn’t seem so foreign. Preparing a family favorite like lasagna for example, and working a new green into the ricotta layer gives everyone a comforting introduction to a new veggie. I find that there is no need to create a trojan horse out of brownies to hide your greens if you work them into a comfort food.

One of our favorite greens is Swiss chard. It isn’t new to us but I know many people who have never given it a try. Growing up in a Sicilian family we probably ate more Swiss chard than spinach. In fact, it’s one of the most popular vegetables along the mediterranean, second only to spinach. You’ve probably passed it many times in the market but never even thought to buy it. And how could you not?

Chard is gorgeous vegetable, much less gnarly looking than kale. The leaves are green but the stalks come in a few different colors depending on the variety. There’s red, white and even rainbow chard. It’s an easy green to love because the flavor profile of chard is similar to spinach. In it’s raw state, it’s earthy and only slightly bitter, making it a good first green to introduce to your little ones. After it’s cooked it gets sweeter and more mild and is delicious sauteed with garlic and oil, baked into lasagna or even stewed in a soup. Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins C, K, and A and is rich in B complex and omega 3 fatty acids. It also contains many phytonutrients which have great disease preventing properties.

I came up with this dish when I noticed that the Swiss chard I bought earlier in the week was starting to wilt. I often combine it with onions and tomato sauce and serve it as a side dish, but this week, I decided to add carrots into the mix and toss it with some penne. Turns out, carrots were a great addition and made the sauce even sweeter. This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 pounds of pasta but you can easily save half and freeze it for later use. It reheats beautifully and  is a great dish to have on-hand for those days when you just don’t feel like cooking. It’s healthy and delicious so you can feel good about feeding it to your family and it can be reheated and combined with pasta in less time than it takes to order take-out.

Penne with Swiss Chard and Carrot Sauce

Makes enough sauce for 2 pounds of pasta


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and diced small

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 stalk of swiss chard, finely chopped

4 cups marinara sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teasoon pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

1 pound of penne pasta, prepared according to package directions for al dente

grated parmigiano reggiano cheese for topping


1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large skillet with high sides oven medium heat. Cook onions and carrots until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in swiss chard and cook until it begins to wilt, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Stir in marinara sauce, salt, pepper and sugar and cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. While sauce is cooking, cook pasta until al dente.Toss hot pasta with as much sauce as you desire and serve topped with grated parmigiano

Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she believes that family meals are the glue that holds everyone together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.

Follow her on Twitter @TakeBackTables

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray