Pasta with (Healthy) Meat Sauce

This is so easy to put together and makes for great leftovers.

Healthy Meat Sauce

2 pounds of lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, slightly crushed
optional – red chili flakes for a little heat
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (more, if you desire!)
1 small red onion, finely diced
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (either white or crimini mushrooms will be great)
2 pounds of fresh roma tomatoes, cut into about a 1/4-inch dice (keep the juice!) or 1 can of crushed tomatoes (about 28 ounces)
2 tablespoons pesto, or about 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 4-ounce can of tomato paste
1 large jar of your favorite prepared marinara sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Your favorite pasta (I’m partial to either whole grain or spinach pasta)

For garnish, freshly grated or shaved cheese, such as Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago, & freshly chopped basil and/or parsley

Line a colander with 2 layers of paper towels and set aside. In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, fennel seeds, and chili flakes; cook thoroughly. Some people like to chop it up really finely, but I like some chunks in there, so break the meat up as much or as little as you like. When it’s cooked through, scoop the meat into the colander, cover to keep warm, and allow any excess fat to drain. If you’re using lean turkey, there shouldn’t be much. Set the meat aside for now.

Wipe out the skillet, add the second tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook a little, being careful to not brown it. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute a few minutes, just until softened. Add the diced onions and cook a few more minutes, just until the onions are translucent.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, add them now. Stir well and allow to cook over medium heat until they’ve softened a bit. Then add the meat, pesto or chopped basil, tomato paste and stir to blend well. Finally, add the prepared marinara sauce and stir to combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you are using canned tomatoes, then add them with the marinara sauce.

Cook over low heat, gently simmering, while you prepare your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

To serve …

Ladle your pasta into a bowl, top the hot pasta with some freshly grated cheese.

Top with the hot sauce. This is wonderful with a garnish of mushrooms cooked in a bit of red wine.

For the garnish of mushrooms cooked in red wine … credit must go to Tia Stella … and I’m typing this from memory, so hopefully I’m not missing anything. What you’ll need:

1 tablespoon each butter & olive oil
6 ounces of white mushrooms, cleaned and cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices
a generous splash (well, maybe 2) of dry red wine
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed skillet, until the butter melts and just starts to bubble a bit. Add the mushrooms, saute a few minutes to soften. Add the red wine and stir, cooking until the wine is reduced and you’ve got a nice slightly thickened sauce. If you want, you can add a little bit more cold butter* to help thicken the sauce and make them kinda’ decadent. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*If you add a bit more butter, start with about a teaspoon of cold butter cut into small cubes, and whisk it in to the pan. You’ll want to be careful at this point to not let it get too hot or the sauce will “break” and the butter will separate out make the sauce oily (for lack of better word at the moment!)

If you don’t like to cook with wine, you could use a good balsamic vinegar in place of the wine.

This would be a great meal after a big bike ride like the Napa Valley Tour de Cure. Come ride with me! There is still plenty of time to sign up. If you don’t or can’t ride, please consider donating to my ride. Please help me reach my goal to be a Champion again this year! I am a long way from reaching my goal this year, so any help will be much appreciated.

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