Penne with Creamy Ground Turkey Tomato Sauce

penne with creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

penne with creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

I tend to write about a lot of rich food in this little corner of the web.  Those types of dishes are my favorite things to eat and, truthfully, cook.  But, I don’t cook like that every day. Otherwise, I’d need to invest in a new wardrobe.

My weeknights are typically all about being good so that I don’t feel badly about eating what I want on the weekends.  Monday through Thursday (or, on a really good week, Friday), I’m always looking for meals to make that are tasty but light.  This dish falls into that category.  It’s simple and fast to put together, and you’ll still feel good about yourself when you’re done eating.

penne with a creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

Goat cheese is my secret weapon when I’m making pasta dishes that are lower in fat.  When you stir it into a sauce, it looks and tastes a lot like a cream sauce, but there is, comparatively, fairly little fat in a serving of goat cheese.  (Bonus: my grocery store has a store brand goat cheese that’s delicious and almost half the price of regular goat cheese.  Be on the lookout; maybe yours does, too).

So, if you’re searching for more ideas for your light weeknight meals, don’t automatically rule out the pasta dishes.  They don’t always have to be heavy.  With some turkey, veges, and goat cheese, you can still have a hearty pasta dinner without needing a nap afterwards.

But, if you want the nap anyway, that’s what winter is for.  You just go ahead and take it.

penne & creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

Penne with Creamy Ground Turkey Tomato Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 12 oz. penne (or any short pasta)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium cubanelle peppers, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh sage
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5-oz) can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water with a handful of kosher salt to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large (12”) nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and cook for about 5 minutes until they start to soften.
  3. Add the garlic, ground turkey, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir together, break up the ground turkey, and cook for 4-5 minutes until the turkey is no longer pink. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, and cook for 2 minutes to reduce the wine slightly.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and the tomato sauce, bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer – partially covered – for 15 minutes. Add the goat cheese, and stir until it’s blended into the sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, stir to combine it with the sauce, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat, sprinkle in the parmesan cheese, and serve hot with extra parmesan, if desired.

Bacon Poblano & Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese

bacon poblano blue mac and cheese

bacon poblano blue mac and cheese

People tend to have a go-to mac and cheese recipe.  You know, the one you can practically make in your sleep or, more accurately maybe, the one you find yourself dreaming about when you’re deep in the middle of that sleep.

Mine has no frills: butter, flour, milk, pasta, cheddar, salt and pepper.  Even the simplicity of it is comforting.  I’ve tried a lot of other recipes, but this one that my mom gave me is still my favorite.

However.

We got a little carried away buying cheese at the market on Saturday and came home with (among other things) a beautiful piece of blue cheese, 2-for-the-price-of-1 wedges of fontina, and a big piece of super sharp cheddar.

So, the mac and cheese plan sort of amped itself up.

bacon and poblano

I really liked the way this turned out.  You can taste the blue cheese in here without it being so bold that it’s overwhelming (e.g., I ate three huge helpings of this without any problem).  The smokiness that the rendered bacon adds to the sauce permeates the whole dish and really complements the tender poblano pieces.

Yum.

bacon poblano blue cheese mac and cheese

The only slight trick to this is getting the fat-to-flour ratio right when you’re thickening up your white sauce.  Since we’re using bacon – and all the goodness it leaves behind – you may or may not need to add butter (and, you may actually need to drain some fat off) before you throw in the flour and the milk.  Comfort is the order of the day when making mac and cheese, though, so no need to overthink it.  Just eyeball it and try to get what you think is 4T of fat in the pan before you add the flour.

So, don’t feel like you’re cheating on your go-to recipe here.  Just keep this one in your back pocket for all your happy, accidental cheese finds.

Bacon Poblano & Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups medium shell pasta
  • 7 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 medium poblano peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 4 T. flour
  • 3 ½ cups whole milk, warmed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 ½ cups shredded fontina
  • 1 ½ cups shredded extra sharp white cheddar
  • 2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup seasoned panko
  • 1 T. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x12” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until the pieces are browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  4. Add poblanos to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  5. Add butter to the rendered bacon fat and let melt. (The amount of butter you need will depend on how much bacon fat you have in the pan. You want to aim for a ratio of 4T fat to 4T flour. I needed 1T. butter).
  6. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and cook together for one minute. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add fontina, cheddar, and blue cheeses, and stir until totally melted.
  8. Combine the pasta, sauce, bacon, and poblanos, and stir to combine. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish, and top with panko crumbs. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the top.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pasta is bubbling, and crust is brown.

 

Farfalle with Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

farfalle with oven roasted tomato sauce

farfalle with oven roasted tomato sauce

Once upon a time, this pasta was a soup.

Well, not really.

Once upon a time, I made a soup recipe and thought, “wouldn’t this method be a great way to make a quick pasta sauce?”  (Incidentally, if you’re always on the lookout for easy, creamy soup recipes like I am, definitely hop over and check this one out.  It’s crazy delicious).

oven roasted tomatoes

This sauce is great because it takes less than half an hour to get a sauce that tastes like you cooked it all day.  And, it’s perfect for a simple weeknight dinner, too.  It doesn’t take much time from start to finish as it is.  But, you could make this sauce over the weekend, refrigerate it, and then just heat it up while you cook some pasta on a weeknight.  Easy.

If you’re looking for something heart healthy, you can omit the cream.  But….you know.

It’s better with the cream.

Farfalle with Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1” chunks
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz. farfalle (or any short pasta)
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place tomatoes, cut side down, and onions onto the baking sheet and brush with the olive oil (it will seem like a lot, but the extra that spills onto the sheet will protect the garlic from burning). Sprinkle garlic, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and thyme evenly over the tomatoes.
  3. Roast until tomatoes and onions are soft and brown around the edges, about 22-24 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. Place tomatoes, onions, and all the juices from the baking sheet into a blender. Add the red pepper flakes and cream. Blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. (I like the garlic to totally disappear into the sauce, but you could leave this sauce chunkier if you prefer that consistency).
  5. Pour sauce into a serving bowl, reserving some of the sauce for serving.
  6. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  7. Drain the cooked pasta, and place it into the serving bowl with the sauce. Add parmesan, fresh parsley, and fresh basil, and toss to combine. Serve with reserved sauce and extra parmesan on top.

Adapted from Taste of Home.