This Italian Turkey Spinach Pasta Skillet is easy and delicious! Three cheeses blanket cooked ground turkey, spinach and pasta tossed in a tomato pesto sauce! Simple and perfect for any night of the week! This recipe will serve 6.
How can a simple pasta dish be SO GOOD??
My sister Christine emailed me this recipe forever and ever ago. I remember loving the combination of the fire roasted tomatoes with the pesto and the copious amounts of cheese. But I believe she got this recipe from someone, who got it from someone and it may have been in a magazine or something, not sure. Over the years I’ve adapted it by making my own pesto, used fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or regular tomato sauce. Instead of just asiago cheese, I’ve upgraded it to three cheeses. You get the point.
This dish is simple and quick to prepare. It makes for a cozy weekday meal and would even be great for make ahead of time and then just pop in the oven when you’re ready to eat!
To Make This Italian Pasta Bake You Will Need:
for the pesto:
- fresh basil
- toasted pinenuts
- parmesan cheese
- lemon zest and juice
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
for the pasta skillet:
- mozzarella cheese
- asiago cheese
- parmesan cheese
- dried cavatappi pasta plus sea salt (for cooking pasta)
- olive oil
- ground turkey
- yellow onion
- tomato sauce or fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- spinach – baby or regular
- homemade basil pesto
In a bowl, combine 1 cup shredded mozzarella with 1/2 cup shredded asiago and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Next make the pesto! It really only takes minutes to do!
In a small blender or food processor add; 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 clove garlic, zest and juice from 1/2 a small-ish lemon, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 cup olive oil.
Blend until smooth and set aside.
Now bring a pot of salted (about a palmful of sea salt) boiling water.
Once boiling, add then add 12 ounces (or 3/4 pound) of cavatappi pasta and cook following the package directions.
Meanwhile, drizzle 2 teaspoons of extra light olive oil to a large deep sided skillet (that has a lid) and add 1 pound lean ground turkey, 3/4 cup diced yellow onion and 2 cloves minced garlic with a pinch of kosher salt.
Break up the meat and cook until the onions are tender and turkey is no longer pink and fully cooked.
Reserve a cup of the pasta liquids BEFORE draining the pasta. Toss the pasta occasionally to keep them from sticking.
Next add in 1 (15 ounce) can of tomato sauce or fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Either will work here. AND fill 1/2 a can with pasta water. Swirl the can to pick up any remaining tomato sauce stuck to the sides and add that in.
Stir to combine and then add 8 ounces spinach. I used baby spinach.
Reduce heat a to low or medium-low. Cover and allow the steam to wilt and cook the leaves for 6 minutes.
When time is up, uncover and stir the remaining spinach into the sauce.
Now the spinach should be bright green and not completely wilted yet.
Move your oven rack to the highest position and preheat your Broiler on high.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.
Next, add the basil pesto. If using jarred pesto, you will need 1 cup.
Stir to combine.
I could so totally eat this right here and now but it gets so much better, just you wait!
Sprinkle with the three cheese blend.
Sprinkle with a little minced parsley right before serving.
So cheesy and incredibly flavorful! The homemade pesto really adds so much flavor to this dish. And the three cheeses is *chefs kiss* perfection.
Definitely a satisfying and hearty pasta dish!
Italian Pasta Bake
FOR THE PESTO:
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
MAKE THE PASTA SKILLET:
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup asiago cheese, freshly shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
- 12 ounces cavatappi pasta, plus sea salt for cooking
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 3/4 cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 pinch kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce, or fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- 8 ounces spinach
MAKE THE PESTO:
- In a small blender or mini food processor, add the basil, parmesan, toasted pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper and olive oil.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with kosher salt. Add pasta and cook to just shy of al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water.
- Secure the lid and blend until smooth.
MAKE THE PASTA SKILLET:
- Combine mozzarella, asiago and parmesan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Bring a large pot of salted water (I add a palmful of sea salt) to boil. Once boiling, add in the pasta and cook following the package directions.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta liquids BEFORE draining the pasta.
- Meanwhile in a deep 10-inch skillet, over medium heat add turkey, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt. Use a spatula to break up the meat, and cook until onions are tender and the turkey is no longer pink and is fully cooked, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and pour pasta water into the can halfway. Swirl to get any extra tomato sauce clinging to the inside and add to the turkey mixture.
- Top with all of the spinach. Cover and let wilt over low heat for 8 minutes. Uncover and stir in the spinach.
- Move your oven rack to the highest position and preheat your broiler on high.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Then add in the pesto (or 1 cup of jarred pesto if using) and stir until throughout. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Spread the pasta mixture evenly in the pan before sprinkling with the three cheeses. Slip under the broiler for a minute or two (watch carefully!) until the cheese has melted and is golden in spots.
- Sprinkle with a little minced parsley and red pepper flakes before serving!
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