Spaghetti with Turkey Meat Sauce
When schedules are tight, and you want a hearty dinner with little preparation, a pasta dinner with turkey meat sauce is the answer. I can’t tell you how many times I relied on this meal over the years. When my kids lived at home, pasta with turkey meat sauce was a regular, if not weekly dinner. Fortunately, they never tired of this very dependable and affordable meal.
Pasta served with a simple meat sauce made with ground turkey and canned tomatoes are the basis for this recipe. We use ground turkey a lot for burgers, meatloaf, or a meat sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love a juicy beef cheeseburger and believe Bolognese sauce is food for the Gods, yet the boys preferred ground turkey. Luckily, when it comes to making a meat sauce, their preference for ground turkey was easy to satisfy. Unlike ground beef, ground turkey is the perfect choice when you want a quick meat sauce. Turkey does not require several hours of cooking to break down and develop rich flavor like beef does. In fact, because turkey is so lean, the longer it cooks the tougher it gets.
Originally, my intention for making this sauce was to create a meal that was easy to make, and my kids would eat. With little toddlers running around I often did not have time to chop a lot of vegetables. A substantial meal with little prep was the ideal dinner. Aside from the amount of time the turkey meat sauce needs to cook, the most difficult part is preparing the garlic. As for the rest of the meal, ground turkey quickly browns then cooks in a sauce of chopped up canned tomatoes, grated carrots, and the minced garlic. The time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta provides a window of 30 – 40 minutes. This gives the meat sauce plenty of time to cook. The result is a meat sauce with bright flavor, and my attention could easily move between making dinner and my children’s needs.
As the boys grew up and if time allowed, I added other vegetables or seasoning. It is a great sauce to use up any loose vegetables hiding in the refrigerator. Anything goes be it, red pepper flakes, pancetta, fresh herbs, winter squash, mushrooms, or other vegetables. You name it, this hearty sauce develops into whatever your inspiration desires. However, keep in mind, adding more ingredients changes your quick dinner into one requiring extra preparation and cooking time.
For a vegetarian/vegan pasta sauce: Tomato Sauce with Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar
What I really like about this meal, is it so adaptable. I find it difficult to call this a recipe, instead, it is a foundation for endless possibilities. It is a simple family dinner that can easily be made with whatever ingredients are in your pantry or refrigerator. There is no need to measure, use what you have and adjust to your tastes. If you only have one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, it will still taste great. If you don’t have fresh herbs there is no need to run to the store, used dried herbs. What is important is putting a nutritious homemade dinner on the table and enjoying time spent with your family and friends.
Spaghetti with Turkey Meat Sauce
- 1 lb (453 g) ground turkey
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic green germ removed and minced
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1 medium or 2 small carrots about 2.5 oz / 75 g grated on a box grater
- 1- 1½ tsp Kosher salt divided
- 1 28 oz (800 g) can of whole tomatoes in purée rough chopped
- 1 14.5 oz (411 g) can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1½ tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 lb box spaghetti or other favorite pasta
- 1 TB balsamic vinegar
- small handful of fresh basil leaves
- small handful of fresh parsley
Fill a stock pot 2/3 up with water and place on a burner over high heat.
Place another large saucepan or 5qt Dutch oven over a burner set to medium-high heat. Pour in 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the ground turkey to the pot and break it up. Let the ground turkey cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes. Once the turkey meat starts to brown break up any large chunks and stir. Cook the ground turkey until the meat is no longer pink and the juices collected on the bottom of the pot have evaporated, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the grated carrots, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, if using, and ½ tsp Kosher salt. Stir and cook for about for a couple of minutes.
Add both cans of tomatoes with their juices, dried oregano, and dried basil to the ground turkey and stir. Bring the sauce to a brisk boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt and stir. Taste and correct for seasoning with more Kosher salt if needed. If you are using no-salt canned tomatoes, you may need the full 1½ tsp of kosher salt to the sauce. Don't add more sugar until it has simmered for several minutes. You should not need extra sugar, but sometimes a pinch is required. The sugar helps sweeten the sauce and balance the flavor.
Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
When the sauce is done simmering, and just before serving, turn off the heat and add the chopped fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar to the sauce. Stir to mix.
Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil add about 1 TB of Kosher salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta following the instructions on the back of the pasta box. Ideally, time the pasta to finish cooking just after the sauce is finished cooking.
Drain the pasta from the water and add a little olive oil and stir. Plate the pasta with sauce and serve with grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese.
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