Monday, April 11, 2011

"Make-Ahead Meal"-- Jen's Pasta Bake

We all have some sort of a pasta bake or dish that we use as our "go-to" meal. This pasta bake happens to be mine. I like to use ground turkey instead of ground beef because I can control what flavor I want better using the turkey. A lot of people have gripes about using ground turkey, because, well, it's tastes like bland turkey. The secret to making a good dish using ground turkey is to season it well. The turkey will take on whatever flavors you put on it so you have to be a little creative with it.
This pasta bake is a perfect make-ahead meal. It's super quick to throw together and can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking or can easily be frozen. It can also be made quickly for a last minute weeknight night meal by serving it "goulash" style right from the stove top.

Jen's Pasta Bake

1 box whole wheat penne, rotini or medium shells pasta
1 to 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey (99% fat-free turkey is fine or lean ground beef can be substituted)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large jar favorite pasta sauce (or about 1 1/2 smaller jars)
1 cup 2% milk reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 grated reduced-fat parmesan cheese

Begin by cooking the pasta according to package directions, just to al-dente, then drain (don't rinse), then set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and seasoon with the seasoned salt, onion powder, italian seasoning and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until about halfway done and then add the onion and garlic. Continue to cook turkey until done and then drain (you may not need to though).

Reduce heat to low; then add the drained tomatoes and about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta sauce, stir to combine. Let simmer for about 5 mintues and then remove from the heat to cool several minutes. Check seasonings and add more salt if desired.

Add the pasta back to the large pot it was cooked in. Then stir in the turkey mixture. Add the remaining pasta sauce and mix well.

Spread the pasta mixture into a 13x9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. I usually let it sit and cool for a little while at this point (maybe 10 minutes or so). Then I evenly sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and parmesan over the top of the pasta, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the pasta bake out of the fridge to warm up a little while the oven is heating. Remove the plastic wrap and replace it with nonstick foil (regular foil will work fine, but I recommend spraying the side that touches the cheese with cooking spray so the cheese doesn't stick to it).

Bake covered for about 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbling. If desired, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking to slightly brown the cheese.
Let sit for a couple of minutes, then serve and enjoy! This will easily serve 6-8 people.

1 comment:

  1. I make something like this, only the bottom layer of pasta is in cheese sauce and the top half is in marinara. I never knew you could refrigerate it before baking...that's awesome!