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Fast and easy: Hearty turkey pasta a healthy option for busy nights

Bow Tie Turkey Pasta with turkey sausage, peas, mushrooms, and bow tie noodles. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Before serving Bow Tie Turkey Pasta add a 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 2

We are wrapping up our series of healthy January recipes with a new pasta dish that is destined to become a family go-to on busy weeknights. Last week, I was in a pinch for time so I turned to my sister-in-law, another Sarah, seeking her recommendation for an easy, yet delicious, meal.

Sarah is an excellent cook, and she strives to prepare home-cooked meals for her family as often as possible.

But, between her two children, husband and full-time job, finding the time to cook can be a challenge on some nights. Over the years, Sarah has collected an arsenal of recipes that are easy to make, nutritious and delicious.

This week's recipe hits all of those marks, and it's inspired by a dish featured on the second episode of the Food Network show, "Everyday Italian with Giada DeLaurentiis". Sarah happened to watch that episode nearly 15 years ago and has been making this dish for her family ever since.

I love the simplicity of this recipe, which can be prepared in less than 30 minutes and features bow tie (farfalle) pasta with ground turkey sausage, crimini mushrooms, frozen peas and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. After making it once, we've adapted it by adding white wine and crushed red pepper flakes to build more flavor, and fresh baby spinach for extra nutrition.

Turkey is a very-lean protein that is often overlooked by meat lovers, and while you could use regular pork Italian sausage for this dish, turkey is a great alternative when eating healthy is a priority. This recipe calls for turkey sausage in link form, which is often a better product than packaged ground turkey, both in flavor and texture. The meat is removed from the casing before it is cooked, which can be easily done with a pair of kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife.

bow tie pasta is the perfect noodle for this dish, as the turkey sausage, peas and mushrooms can easily nestle into its nooks and crannies. You could use any pasta you prefer, but we recommend using a short noodle, like penne, rigatoni or medium shells, that will capture the ingredients.

The recipe calls for crimini mushrooms, also known as baby bellas, which have great flavor and pair well with meat, but you could use whatever variety you choose. To save time, I buy mushrooms that have already been cleaned and sliced, which makes chopping them that much faster.

The turkey sausage provides the main flavor of this pasta dish, and with no garlic or onions to chop, prepping the ingredients is almost ridiculously easy. This easy weeknight meal has everything you need, all in one dish - lean protein, starch, vegetables and dairy. And, most importantly, flavor. Buon appetito!

Hearty Turkey Bow Tie Pasta

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 pound turkey sausage links, meat removed from casing

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (more for finishing, if needed)

½ cup dry white wine (optional)

8 ounces baby bella mushrooms (crimini), coarsely chopped

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (more for a spicy version)

1 cup frozen peas

1 pound bow tie pasta

2 to 3 cups fresh baby spinach

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil.

Remove turkey meat from casing and season with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, sauté turkey with 2 tablespoons olive oil, breaking up the meat into bite-size chunks. Transfer meat to a heatproof bowl and set aside.

If including white wine, add to the hot pan and cook over medium-high heat until at least ¾ of the liquid has evaporated, scraping up any brown bits of meat from the bottom of the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium until hot but not smoking. Add the chopped mushrooms and red pepper flakes, and season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 8 to 9 minutes until just al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining noodles into a colander.

Meanwhile, add the peas to the mushroom pan and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the cooked turkey to the pan and cook for 4 minutes more, then remove pan from heat and set aside.

Return the cooked pasta to the large pot and add the meat mixture, stirring until well combined. Add the reserved pasta water and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

After 3 minutes, add the baby spinach and a drizzle of olive oil, toss gently to combine and cook for 2 more minutes until the spinach just starts to wilt. Taste and add more seasoning as desired. Add the freshly grated cheese and stir to combine. Serve family-style in a large platter, with more grated cheese on the side.

Adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis

Recipe Time Capsule

This week in...

• 2017: Southern Black Bean Soup

• 2016: Sarah's Lasagna Fantastico

• 2015: Baked Ziti Casserole Italiano

• 2014: Pollo Tricolore (Italian Stuffed Chicken Breasts)

• 2013: Sarello's Famous Sicily Chicken

Recipes may be found with article on Sarah's blog at thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.