10 Indulgent Meals That Incorporate Winter Vegetables

No one ever said eating with the seasons has to be 100% healthy. You can eat your seasonal fruits and vegetables in the winter and still get your comfort food, too — if you pick the right recipes.

Sneaking produce into your favorite dinners is easy. You might never go back to eating your mac and cheese without a hint of green. Check out these recipes that star winter vegetables but also are decadent and delicious. They’re the secret to getting the most out of the winter harvest without starving yourself.

1. Baked Mac and Cheese with Kale and Mushrooms

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked mac and cheese | iStock.com

We come to this baked mac and cheese with kale and mushrooms from Food Network. This dish is indulgent, boasting three different kinds of cheese. But it also stars winter produce, including mushrooms and kale.

Eight full cups of kale are included in the recipe, but most of it cooks down. You won’t even taste the mild vegetable because you’ll be too busy enjoying your baked macaroni, coated in breadcrumbs and cheese.

This recipe yields 8 to 12 servings, and it requires 15 minutes of prep time. Shiitake mushrooms stud the mac and cheese to make it a little more healthy. But it’s safe to say this dish still is delightfully sinful.


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 large bunch of kale, stems discarded, roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups half-and-half
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 3 ounces Gruyere, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions: Set an oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni, and cook until it is al dente, about 6 minutes. Strain, reserving 1 ¾ cups of the pasta water. Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the shiitake mushrooms, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are lightly browned in spots and softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, and add the kale, garlic, and ½ cup of water, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Add ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and stir to combine. Cook until the kale is wilted but still crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a bowl, and set aside.

Carefully wipe out the saucepan. Add the half-and-half and cayenne, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until reduced to 1 ½ cups, about 15 minutes. Add the cream cheese, and stir until melted. Whisk in the cheddar and Gruyere until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

Add the macaroni and reserved pasta water to the saucepan, and stir to combine. Gently fold in the reserved vegetables. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Pour into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Toss the bread crumbs, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and a large pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the bread crumbs are lightly browned and crispy, about 10 minutes.

2. Pasta with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Pasta with chicken

Pasta with chicken | iStock.com

The name of the game in this winter recipe from Food & Wine is carbs. This time, the food formula yields pasta with chicken and Brussels sprouts. It’s the perfect dinner that will teach your guests to love their sprouts. They’ll see there’s nothing to fear when pasta, chicken, garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan are on the ingredients list. The active time for the pasta dinner is only 10 minutes, and it serves 4. With each forkful, you’ll get perfectly flavored pasta with chicken and fresh Brussels sprouts, making the winter produce that much easier to like.


  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ⅓ pounds in all)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¾ pound fresh Brussels sprouts (or 1 10-ounce package, frozen), cut into quarters from top to stem end
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ pound medium pasta shells

Directions: In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon each of the oil and the butter over moderate heat. Season the chicken with ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook the breasts until browned and just done, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into small pieces.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over moderately low heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, Brussels sprouts, broth, and red-pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, and cook, covered, until the Brussels sprouts are just done, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan, and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain, and toss with the sauce.

3. Winter Green Lasagna

Lasagna with spinach

Lasagna with spinach | iStock.com/-lvinst-

Use fresh winter greens in this recipe from Real Simple, and you’ll feel good about the lasagna you’re eating. The recipe serves 8 to 10 and only requires 30 minutes of hands-on time. All the lasagna regulars are on the ingredients list. But kale, Swiss chard, spinach, or another fresh green of your choice are there, too.

You’ll saute your greens in garlic before you get to preparing the good stuff, starring noodles and two different kinds of cheeses. What you lack in sauce in this dish you make up for in greens and cheese. The end result is a lasagna studded with winter greens that will make you feel good about eating with the seasons, while indulging in your favorite comfort food.


  • 2 ½ pounds fresh kale, Swiss chard, spinach, or another fresh green, or 5 10-ounce boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • cups low-fat milk
  • cups grated Parmesan or Romano, or a combination of the two
  • 15-ounce containers ricotta
  • eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 16-ounce box no-boil lasagna noodles
  • Grated zest from 1 lemon

Directions: If using fresh greens, discard any tough stems, and chop the leaves. Rinse, and shake gently to remove most but not all of the water. Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large stockpot with the garlic, and cook over medium-high heat. As soon as the garlic begins to brown add the greens, and toss. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cover immediately, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until very tender. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining olive oil, the flour, and the remaining salt. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add the milk, and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and boils, about 10 minutes. Stir in all but ½ cup of the grated cheese.

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Blend the ricotta, eggs, lemon zest, and nutmeg into the greens. Spread about ½ cup of the cheese sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Place 3 sheets of pasta on top. Spread on ¼ of the spinach filling and ½ cup sauce, then another 3 sheets of pasta. Make 3 more layers. End with the pasta and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover with foil, and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and cook 15 minutes more or until golden.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

4. Broccoli Rabe and Potato Pizza

veggie pizza

Veggie pizza | iStock.com

Make yourself feel good about pizza by throwing some seasonal broccoli rabe and potatoes on it. This recipe from Fine Cooking will show you how it’s done.

The recipe, which serves 6 to 8, instructs you to go the store-bought dough route. On that dough you’ll add smoked mozzarella, garlic, fried rosemary leaves, and crispy potatoes. You won’t see any sauce on the ingredients list, but you’ll be too busy enjoying two kinds of cheese, carbs, and broccoli on the pizza to notice.


  • 1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch thick (about 1 cup)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 4-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 12 ounces broccoli rabe, trimmed and finely chopped (about 7 ½ cups)
  • All-purpose flour, for the pizza peel
  • 1 pound store-bought pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella
  • 4 ounces coarsely grated smoked mozzarella
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ ounce finely grated Grana Padano (½ cup)

Directions: Position a pizza stone on a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the potato slices for 1 minute. Rinse under cold water, gently pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the rosemary, and cook, stirring often, until crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add the broccoli rabe to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stalks are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Generously flour a pizza peel or a large cookie sheet. Stretch the pizza dough on the peel to a 14-inch circle. Evenly distribute half of both mozzarellas over the dough, then half of the potatoes, half of the broccoli rabe, and all of the garlic, covering most of the surface. Crumble the fried rosemary leaves over the pizza. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, broccoli rabe, and mozzarella. Season with a pinch of salt and a few generous grinds of pepper, and carefully slide onto the pizza stone.

Bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is just melted, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven, top with the Grana Padano, and drizzle with the remaining oil. Cool briefly, and serve.

5. Roasted Root Vegetable Bisque

Roast squash and chili soup

Roast squash and chili soup | iStock.com

Warm up this winter with a roasted root vegetable bisque recipe from Betty Crocker. Winter vegetables taste great when they’re roasted and blended together with butter, cream, tomato paste, and curry seasonings. One way to eat your vegetables is to slurp them, and this soup recipe serves 8.

The creamy bisque tastes indulgent, but a serving still only yields a respectable 400 calories. Serve your roasted root vegetable bisque with a piece of crusty bread, and you’ll soon realize getting your vegetables in the winter isn’t so bad, after all.


  • 6 parsnips, peeled, chopped
  • 4 small turnips, peeled, chopped
  • 1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled, chopped
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Croutons, if desired
  • Chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Directions: Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In large bowl, toss parsnips, turnips, celery root, squash, and oil until coated. In large roasting pan, spread vegetables in single layer.

Roast 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and browned. Cool slightly. In food processor or blender, place half of the roasted vegetables and 3 cups of the broth. Cover; process until smooth. Pour into 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining vegetables and 3 more cups broth; set aside.

In 10-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until browned. Stir in tomato paste and Cajun seasoning; cook 3 minutes, stirring often. In food processor or blender, place onion mixture and remaining 4 cups broth. Cover; process until smooth. Add to vegetable mixture in Dutch oven. Stir in whipping cream and salt. Heat to boiling over medium heat; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring often. Garnish individual servings with croutons and parsley.

6. Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash

beef tagine or stew

Beef tagine with vegetables | iStock.com/travellinglight

Stew is the dinner of the winter season, and this recipe from Cooking Light takes it up a notch by adding butternut squash and fragrant spices. The resulting beef tagine is both healthy and hearty, starring squash and beef. It comes in at only 283 calories per serving.

You can feed 4 with this recipe, and it’s easy to make start to finish thanks to the Dutch oven. The one-pot beef tagine will become one of your winter staples, and you’ll feel good about your seasonal eating.


  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) beef shoulder roast or petite tender roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 shallots, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions: Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef; toss well to coat.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and shallots; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add squash; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Sprinkle with cilantro.

7. Caramelized Onion Tart with Goat Cheese and Thyme


Tart | iStock.com

Serve a fancy tart for dinner, and you’ll feel good about what you’re eating. That’s especially true when goat cheese, onions, and fresh thyme are involved. The ingredients list for this caramelized onion tart from Delish is short, and the prep time comes in at 10 minutes.

This cheesy tart appears sophisticated, but it’s actually easy. All you need are frozen puff pastry, goat cheese, fresh thyme, and onion. Load your toppings onto your puff pastry, and bake for 10 minutes. Cut the tart into squares, and you’re good to go.


  • 1 (14-ounce) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out puff pastry to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer puff pastry to prepared baking sheet, and prick all over with a fork.

Bake until golden brown, 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, warm butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook until golden, 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, and cook 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread caramelized onions over puff pastry, leaving a ½-inch board around the edges. Sprinkle with goat cheese, and scatter thyme sprigs on top.

Bake until puff pastry is golden brown and crisp and cheese is warm and melted, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into squares and serve.

8. Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

mac and cheese

Mac and cheese | iStock.com

Anyone can enjoy cauliflower when it’s in the form of mac and cheese. No one has to know your secret that this dish from Epicurious is actually gluten-free.

In this case, the pasta is subbed out for cauliflower, and the end result is a dinner that still is indulgent thanks to whole milk and three kinds of cheeses. It’s a seasonal spin on mac and cheese with the winter cauliflower. The recipe serves 4 and can be assembled up to a day ahead.


  • 8 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, shredded (about 1 ¼ cups)
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded (about 1 ¼ cup), plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (optional)

Directions: Toss cauliflower and ¼ teaspoon salt in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pierce plastic with a knife a few times to vent, and microwave on high 10 minutes. Carefully remove plastic, and transfer cauliflower to a colander. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook milk, cream cheese, curry powder, mustard, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth, about 4 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Add cauliflower, and toss to combine. Add mozzarella and 6 ounces cheddar, and toss to combine. Transfer cauliflower mixture to freezer-to-oven-safe baking dish or dishes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover dish with foil, and bake casserole until heated through and just beginning to bubble, about 45 minutes for large dish, or about 30 minutes for small dishes. Remove foil, and sprinkle cheddar over. Heat broiler, and broil until top is browned and bubbling, 2 to 5 minutes.

Top with chives, if using, before serving.

9. Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans

Gnocchi pasta

Gnocchi | iStock.com

No need to say no to indulgent gnocchi when fresh chard and white beans are on the ingredient list. This gnocchi recipe from Eating Well teaches you how to make the Italian dumplings in a skillet, tossing in dark nutrient-rich greens, diced tomatoes, white beans, and two different kinds of cheese.

The end result is a dish both delicious and nutritious, which stars winter’s best produce. When you’re cooking with dark winter greens, you’re serving everyone a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, along with their carbs.


  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 16-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 cups chopped chard leaves, (about 1 small bunch) or spinach
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi, and cook, stirring often, until plumped and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and onion to the pan, and cook, stirring, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and water. Cover, and cook until the onion is soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add chard (or spinach), and cook, stirring, until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the gnocchi, and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover, and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 3 minutes.

10. Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sage, and Pine Nuts

Source: iStock

Pasta with squash | iStock.com

We’re concluding things with one last plate of heavenly pasta. You won’t mind the winter when it means tucking into dishes, such as this pasta with butternut squash from The Kitchn.

The sweetness of the butternut squash pairs perfectly with sage and pine nuts. All three ingredients are pan-fried together before being mixed into the pasta. The pan-frying helps to develop the natural flavors of the ingredients and gives the pasta dish a subtle crunch. The recipe serves 4. You can even skip the cheese and make the dinner vegan.


  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • ¾ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces high-quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (about a cup total)

Directions: Heat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit. Cut the butternut squash in half, and scoop out the strings and seeds the middle cavity. Flip the squash halves upside down, and peel them. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Toss with the onion, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves, and also toss with the squash.

Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on a large baking sheet, and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.

Heat salted pasta water to boiling, and cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain, and set aside. As the squash finishes roasting, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided sauté pan. Drop in the rest of the sage leaves, and fry for about a minute, or until they begin to just shrivel up.

Remove with a slotted spoon, and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.

Add half the pasta to the pan, along with half the roasted squash mixture. Crumble in half the sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the pasta is heated through and getting crispy on some of the edges. Add the pine nuts, and cook for another minute. Stir in half the cheese, and serve.

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