Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pasta + Turkey = Healthfully Tasty!

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This is another one of those great recipes that you can really substitute any veggie for what you have lurking in the corners of your fridge. I love pasta dishes, but they can often be extremely unhealthy or kind of dead/one-note in the flavor department. That's why I always make my own sauce (with the exception of the first trimester "cooking"!) and look for ways to build flavors in what may seem to be ordinary pasta dishes.

This recipe is actually surprisingly healthy for you and you can always amp up the health factor too, by using more veggies or less cheese. I was going to add in mushrooms but when I went to the fridge to pull them out, I found that my mushrooms were growing their own little patches of I ended up tossing in a diced bell pepper instead. Zucchini would be great in this too, if you have some lurking around.

**Note: In dishes where you use ground turkey or chicken, remember to amp up the spices because those meats have so little fat, they're pretty bland on their own.**

Penne w/ Turkey Ragu

- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 leeks (white and light green parts only)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 large bell pepper
- 1 lb. ground turkey or chicken
- 28 oz. diced or crushed tomatoes (I like the texture of diced)
- Salt & pepper
- Basil (fresh if you have it, but dried will work too)
- Dried oregano
- 4 tbsp. Parmesan cheese (grated)
- 2 tbsp. half & half
- Shredded mozzarella cheese (to garnish)
- 12 oz. penne pasta


Bring large pot of salted water to boil and in the meantime, rinse and slice your leeks. See the picture below to understand the vital nature of rinsing leeks well! They grow in extremely sandy soil and it gets trapped in all those layers. What I do is slice up the leeks and then put them in a bowl of cold water and swish until they are clean and the dirt settles to the bottom.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add your leeks, garlic and any other veggies (ie. the pepper/mushrooms/zucchini), sprinkling liberally with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes, then add in your ground turkey. Try not to gross out over how icky raw ground turkey or chicken can look...and brown the meat lightly.

3. Now, if you have a big enough skillet, you can add in the tomatoes and 2 cups of water. However, my skillet is nowhere near big enough, so I transferred the mixture to a large saucepan and added in the oregano, basil and a little more salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil. Your salted water should also be boiling at this point, so add in your penne to cook.

4. Enjoy the free steam bath, then add in the parmesan to the sauce and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes to thicken. When the sauce is done, add the half & half and taste to make sure the seasonings are on point. Toss the sauce with the pasta and serve, topping with mozzarella and gobble it up!

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