Easy Shell Pasta with Ground Turkey
Dinner | Published Dec 20, 2018 | Updated Sep 11, 2020 | By Tawnie
Table of contents
Creating this shell pasta recipe
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*).
Psst…before we move on…be sure to check out this post on 10+ quick ground turkey dinner recipe ideas!
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:
- Medium shells
- Ground turkey
- Olive oil
- Bell pepper
- White mushrooms
- White onion
- Beef broth
- Tomato sauce
- Heavy cream
- Parmesan cheese
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.
How to make ground turkey pasta
- To cook this easy ground turkey recipe, you’ll need one large pan to make everything in.
- Boil water for the pasta and cook pasta according to the package directions.
- Cook ground turkey in a few tablespoons olive oil and set it aside.
- 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 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!
Ground Turkey Pasta
- Wooden spoon
- 12 oz. medium shell pasta or pasta of choice
- 1 lb (16 oz.) ground turkey
- 3 Tbsp. Olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
- 4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 large white onion, diced
- 1 tsp. salt (taste and add more as desired)
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cups beef broth (or chicken broth)
- 1 can (15oz.) tomato sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- Boil water for pasta and follow directions on the shell pasta box. Typically 8-10 minutes to cook medium shells.
- In a dutch oven or wide stock pot, heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the ground turkey. Season the 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. Sauté the garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning until fragrant (about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally). Then whisk in the flour until combined. Pour in the beef broth and tomato sauce and let it come to a simmer. Then add in the cooked ground turkey.
- Pour in the cooked shells or pasta of choice, heavy cream and Parmesan. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as desired. If you would like it creamier, add more heavy cream.
- *Optional to make a pasta bake: place pasta in an oven safe dish (or leave in dutch oven) and bake at 350° 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 shell pasta 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!
Hi, I’m Tawnie!
Welcome to my tiny “korner” on the Internet! I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who loves cookies as much as kale. (OK, maybe I like cookies a little bit more but shh, don’t tell anyone). I am so glad you’re here! Follow along for hassle free, realistic and approachable recipes.More about Tawnie
Can I make this ahead of time and then reheat it in the oven? Should I increase the broth or tomato sauce so it doesn’t dry out while it’s reheating?
Hi Marie! Thank you for the comment – when you reheat that is when I would add MORE broth or tomato sauce in. The noodles absorb the sauce quickly so you’ll follow same directions and then add in more as desired when you’re ready to reheat. Hope that helps. Thank you!
Can you make this with chicken broth or water instead of beef broth ? Don’t really eat beef,
Yes, absolutely!! Thank you for stopping by. I hope you love it!
What does putting it in the oven do?
Hello! It’s totally optional. Sometimes I place this recipe in the oven at 350 degrees F in an oven-safe dish to get it nice and bubbly. It’s nice if everyone isn’t ready to eat yet to keep it the oven around 225F. Thank you!
Unless I missed it, I didn’t see when to put the ground turkey back into the recipe. I just did it when I had the sauce simmering. Also, could the broth be cut down to make it less saucy? Thanks
Hey Jen! You put the ground turkey in after the sauce simmers 🙂 Of course, cut the broth down to 1 cup or 1/2 cups, no problem! 🙂 Enjoy!
Look at step three
This is delicious!! My family loved it with a green salad and brown and serve bread
Beth thank you so much! I am glad your family loved it!
One of my kiddos has a beef allergy so I’m always looking for more recipes with turkey!
I’m glad you stumbled across this recipe! Thank you Emily! xo
Great pasta recipe for this season! Looks so creamy and tasty!
Ground turkey is a go to protein at our house and this pasta looks rich and delicious. Can’t wait to try!
Thank you so much Colleen, I hope everyone enjoys!
That pasta looks so warm, comforting and inviting. A must try recipe for sure especially during this brutal
Thank you so much!! It will warm ya right up!!
Ground turkey is SO underrated! I love it and we use it all the time. This is an excellent way to put it to good use. My kids would adore this!!!
I agree, thank you so much!
My dad was on dinner duty too! He only had 5 dishes he knew how to do, so he made the heck out of them. I cannot eat broiled chicken to this day. But anyway, this recipe looks really tasty. I can’t wait to try it out on my family.