When I am in a pinch and don’t know what to make for dinner, shell pasta is typically the answer. It’s easy, quick, perhaps better than running to get fast food, and tastes good! Paired with a veggie and a glass of wine, I’m a happy camper.
Growing up, when my mom would work late nights and my dad was on dinner duty, we had three options: pizza, Chinese (takeout), or he’d make pasta. I don’t think he ever made anything like this ground turkey pasta recipe; he was more of a bag of frozen ravioli and a jar of red sauce kind of guy. My dad was quite the chef (*wink, wink*).
This ground turkey recipe is easily made with fridge and pantry staples and is a restaurant-quality pasta. To balance out this easy shell pasta recipe, serve with a yummy side salad.
Sometimes I feel we all think we need to overcomplicate dinner. Cooking is only as hard as you make it out to be. It’s a mindset, right? “I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to have to clean the dishes or go buy ingredients at the store.” It’s something you may need to take time to plan for and make time for. If it’s important to you, it’ll happen!
Ground turkey pasta ingredients
For this easy recipe using ground turkey, you’ll need:
You’re welcome to play around with the veggies you add into this ground turkey pasta. Zucchini would pair nicely with the creamy tomato sauce, as would different types of mushrooms.
To cook this easy ground turkey recipe, you’ll need one large pan to make everything in. Get the water boiling for your pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Then you’ll cook your ground turkey in a few tablespoons olive oil and set it aside.
Then you’ll sauté fresh minced garlic in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil with bell peppers, mushrooms, and onion. Season and cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. You’ll then thicken with flour (gluten-free if you need it), beef broth, and tomato sauce and simmer until thick and bubbly. So far so good, right?
Stir in cooked pasta with heavy cream, Parmesan and you’ve got a winning, really delicious, easy dinner!
Can I make this ground turkey pasta gluten-free?
Absolutely! Nowadays, there are so many great pasta alternatives if you want to switch it up (or are gluten-free) — lentil pastas, chickpea pastas, black bean pastas, etc. would all work in this ground turkey pasta recipe. These pastas typically provide more protein and fiber, which is great.
Tips for making ground turkey pasta
Not a ground turkey fan? No problem! You can also opt for ground beef or Italian sausage if you’d prefer. But if you’re new to the world of recipes using ground turkey, make this shell pasta as written the first time you cook it. With the right seasonings, ground turkey can be incredibly flavorful.
For the best flavor, buy a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself, or buy the pre-shredded Parmesan in a bag. Avoid the powdered stuff in a shaker can, as it’s not as flavorful and doesn’t really melt.
Sometimes I place my creamy shell pasta in the oven at 350 degrees F in an oven-safe dish to get it nice and bubbly. If everyone isn’t ready to eat yet, keep it in the oven!
Boil water for pasta and follow directions on the shell pasta box. Typically 8-10 minutes to cook the medium shells.
In a dutch oven or wide stock pot, heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat and cook ground turkey. Season ground turkey with salt and pepper. Once cooked, place ground turkey in a bowl and set aside.
Then place remaining tablespoon olive oil in the same pan. Saute the garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and onions with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning until fragrant (about 5 minutes). Then whisk in the flour. Pour in the beef broth and tomato sauce and let it come to a simmer. Then add in the cooked ground turkey!
Pour in your cooked shells, heavy cream and Parmesan and stir. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. If you would like it creamier, add more heavy cream.
*Optional to make a pasta bake: place pasta in a cast iron skillet (or leave in dutch oven) and bake at 350 degrees F. for and additional 20 minutes. You can top with more Parmesan if desired. Enjoy!!
Other seasonings that make a great addition, but not necessary include garlic power, onion powder, red pepper chili flakes, dried oregano and cayenne.
Add red pepper chili flakes for a little heat!If you don’t want to use heavy cream, you can make this pasta creamy by using whipped ricotta. (or use half heavy cream and whipped ricotta, it’s fun to play with pasta recipes, you can’t really “mess” it up!)May sub shells for a different shaped pasta such as rotini or penne. I’ve even made it with cheese tortellini and added in spinach as well for a fun twist!Other seasonings that make a great addition, but not necessary include garlic power, onion powder, fennel, seed, dried oregano and cayenne. If you make with more pasta (16 oz box of shells) add in more heavy cream or tomato sauce. Can add in more ground turkey if you want too!