Pasta Rustica with pasture raised turkey and three cheeses



pasta rustica  with pasture raised turkey and three cheeses
This three-cheese penne pasta recipe gets extra substance and flavour from pasture raised ground turkey.
 
When I was little we used to head away on a ski vacation to Maine for March Break. One year mom decided to stay put so it was just dad and the kids, which meant we were on our own for meals. I remember heading off to the grocery store en masse to buy groceries for the week and we happened upon something called Hamburger Helper. It seemed like a gift from heave at the time. We all loved mom’s hamburger soup and chow mein, and judging from the pictures on the packages this seemed to offer something similar, so we stocked up for the week and off we went. 
One night of Hamburger Helper was more than enough.

Not one of us was impressed with Hamburger Helper and I don’t think it was because we had been coddled by mom’s delicious home cooking. It was our introduction to processed food, an introduction that every from-scratch mom hopes for: Processed food is revolting, take me home.

While this recipe isn’t quite a from-scratch replica of our fateful Hamburger Helper meal, this is just the casserole for travelling, serving to large groups of people, sending to friends in need and enjoying on a slushy March evening. It’s been a standby for mom over the past decade, to the delight of my whole family.

Pasta Rustica with chicken sausage and three cheeses



Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 lb. chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed (or ground turkey)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 jar of strained tomatoes or a can (28 oz.) tomatoes in puree, tomatoes coarsely chopped and puree reserved
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into bite-size pieces, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Stir in the basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and puree and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt.
 
Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil a baking dish.
 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but firm to the bite, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.
 
In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the sauce, the ricotta and mozzarella. Spread in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
 
Bake until the cheeses are melted and the tips of the pasta are crusty, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot.   
 

Green Tips:

  • Chose pasture-raised turkey or naturally raised chicken, if you can get it. That way you can avoid excessive antibiotics and your meat will be more flavourful.
  • I use jars of strained tomatoes in this recipe since we try to limit our consumption of canned foods. That nasty BPA chemical in the can lining is best avoided, especially with acidic foods like tomatoes.
  • Go for non-GMO pasta, if you can get it. 
pasta rustica with pasture raised turkey and three cheeses

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