Doubly cheesy, meaty, a touch spicy, and oh so mouth watering and flavorful. I remember being a kid and loving when my mom took our regular spaghetti dish and throwing it in the oven with a little extra cheese on it. It takes a classic ragu or marinara pasta to the next level. You could really use any tomato or meat sauce and turn it into a pasta bake. It’s one of those things that anyone would love. As far as I know, there is not a single soul in this world that doesn’t like pasta. It was always a classic weeknight favorite growing up because it was easy and cheap and fed all of us. So do yourself a favor and make this a regular in your dinner recipe list.
In this pasta bake, I used a ground turkey. Not that I was trying to cut calories in this meal…but it is a bit healthier than a typical ground beef in my opinion. (It was also the only ground meat I had in the freezer at the time..gotta work with what you’ve got!) Plus, it tastes pretty much the same as beef once it’s covered in the delightful tomato sauce. For the sauce, I used San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, onion, carrot and a ton of garlic. You can never have too much garlic in my opinion! You also should always use San Marzano tomatoes as apposed to any other canned tomato. They are the best flavored tomatoes in a can, hands down. I believe it’s a type of tomato that is only grown in Italy. They have the perfect conditions and soil to grow these tomatoes…so you know they are top notch. When you’re trying to cut time and don’t feel like roasting and cooking your own tomatoes, this is a wonderful alternative.
I love to start this sauce earlier in the day and letting it simmer for a few hours. If I don’t have the time to do so, cooking it and eating it immediately is still incredibly delicious. I think the more time it sits, more flavor will build. All the elements combined just keep getting better with time!
I used bow tie pasta in this recipe, but feel free to use whatever pasta you fancy. Penne or spaghetti noodles also work great. Now on to the best part of this recipe, the cheese. I feel like this dish would be incomplete without the rich luscious pockets of whole milk ricotta. It’s important to use a good quality ricotta, as some cheaper brands don’t taste exactly the same. I find the cheaper or store brands are always much more watery and less creamy. Top shelf brands are very thick and creamy. Just a tip to remember when shopping for the recipe!
This recipe is so filling and lovely on its own, but you can also serve it with a side Caesar salad and some garlic bread. I tend to add extra elements when cooking for a party of friends or family. Love me some bread and butter with my pasta!
PRODUCTS I LOVE:
TURKEY & TOMATO BAKED PASTA WITH RICOTTA & MOZZARELLA
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 10 minutes
- 1 lb bow tie pasta
- 1/2 yellow onion, small dice
- 1 large carrot, very small dice
- 8 cloves garlic, small dice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb lean ground turkey
- 5 oz basil (about 1 large bunch)
- 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 Roma tomatoes, small dice
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tbsp dried basil
- 1-2 tsp kosher salt, more or less to taste
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 15 oz. whole milk ricotta
- 1-2 cups mozzarella, depending on how cheesy you want the top
+ Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Cook pasta to where it is almost al dente. Drain but do not rinse. It will finish cooking in the oven later on.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Heat a large pot to medium heat. Add in onion, carrot, garlic and olive oil. Cook for a few minutes until everything is soft.
- Add in turkey and cook while breaking it up with a spoon into small pieces. Add in tomatoes a cook for an additional minute till tomatoes break down slightly.
- Add San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil to a blender. Blend till smooth then add to the large pot.
- Bring to a soft boil and add in tomato paste, anchovy paste, salt to taste, dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes and heavy cream. Cook on a soft boil for 5 minutes while stirring and then turn to a low simmer. Cook with a lid on for another hour while stirring occasionally. If you don’t have an hour, you can skip this step.
- Add in cooked pasta to the sauce and then transfer to an oven safe dish, like a Pyrex 8×13.
- Spoon in scoops of ricotta every few inches. Push ricotta down into the pasta. Then sprinkle on mozzarella on top.
- Place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot with Parmesan cheese.