Another crazy week at work leads me to another baked pasta dish that will feed us for ages. Cook one and done. And in all honesty, I can’t take credit for this one. Way back when, Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum blogged about her baked rigatoni with spinach, provolone, and turkey. It looked so amazingly awesome, but of course, I was out of half of her ingredients but still desperately wanted to try it.
Soooooo…..the latest incarnation of the dish turned into this turkey pasta bake. Now, I have to admit, I’ve gone through several different rounds of this concept and no two occurrences are ever alike. That said, the method is really key here. And I found that you can even take the concept and apply it to a healthier version of mac and cheese. What’s not to love there?
And I also profess that this recipe marks the end of me turning on my oven again until Labor Day. The car’s thermostat maxed out at 91 degrees today, and so did I. I most definitely cannot take the heat, so I am getting out of the kitchen.
Turning to the pasta, you can’t see it from this picture, but this is actually a pretty well-rounded meal. You have turkey, sweet potato, broccoli, pasta, and cheese. Now, you can omit the cheese, of course, if you’re feeling so inclined. I leave the decision entirely up to you.
In the meantime, look at this bite…
I’m a fan of rigatoni noodles for this. They tend to grab onto the sauce better. And the panko breadcrumbs on top just give it that home-style mac and cheese feeling. (Even though, between you and me, I’m much more of a stove-top mac and cheese girl. Don’t tell anyone, though.)
Speaking of the sauce, it’s super complicated (Not!). It consists of blended sweet potatoes. And cheese. And ‘das it. And when I say “blended,” I mean baby-food consistency. This method of sauce preparation has seriously changed my life. Who would have known sweet potatoes (or most other starches, for that matter) could work in this way? If you have children, think of all the fun things you can sneak into their food by whizzing them in with this sauce? (Of course, if your husband happens to hate broccoli, you might want to whiz that up as well. Me being me, I just cut it up and cooked it with the pasta so you get nice broccoli chunks in each bite. I’m sad to say that Ben was not amused…but he still ate it anyway. Success!)
See the broccoli chunks! See ‘em! Yeah, so did Ben…to whom I stick out my tongue and say, “Too bad.”
I suppose it’s a good thing that I got my last oven hurrah with this dish, since I’ve been making different variations of it for months. Honestly, you can throw anything in here, smother it in pureed sweet potato cheese sauce, and call it a day. Happiness is pasta in individual ramekins with crunchy panko and a husband who just (willingly) ate broccoli. Amen.
Sweet potatoes pureed down to baby-food-like consistency makes this turkey pasta bake double as a healthy mac and cheese. How many vegetables can you hide?
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 a large onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 broccoli crown, cut up into tiny florets
- 1 box of whole wheat rigatoni pasta
- 8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flake
- 2-3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring a large-sized pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, salt the water.
- Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water. Place the sweet potatoes in the water (gently, using a metal sieve so hot water doesn't splatter on you) and cook for about 12 minutes, until tender.
- Using the same metal sieve, scoop out the sweet potatoes and put them in a blender with enough of the starchy cooking water to make it blend nicely (2-4 cups). Blend until it's the consistency of baby food.
- Once that's finished, throw the broccoli florets into the starchy cooking water and cook for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat, until tender.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. When hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and tender. Then, add the ground turkey, salt and pepper to taste, and crushed red pepper flake. Brown the turkey until it's cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- While the turkey's cooking, throw the pasta into the water and cook to al dente according to package instructions (about 8 minutes).
- Once the broccoli is cooked, drain it out into the metal sieve. In the now-empty pot, turn on the heat to low and pour in the pureed sweet potato. Add the grated cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and evenly incorporated. Add the broccoli, turkey, onions, garlic, and drained pasta into the pot. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn on the broiler.
- In a separate small bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs and the rest of the olive oil.
- In a 9x13-inch baking dish, spray it with cooking spray and pour the pasta mixture into the dish. Top evenly with panko and put it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs begin to turn golden brown.