A Non-Recipe:Tri-Pepper Turkey Pasta

I tweet on my personal Twitter account about making my tri-pepper turkey pasta a lot because, well, we make it at least twice a month. It's easy, fast, healthy, inexpensive, reheats well for lunch leftovers and is, quite frankly, damn good. I've had requests for the recipe, but here's the deal with my cooking: there are no recipes. I have a whole kitchen cabinet with three shelves devoted to cookbooks, but my philosophy is that recipes are to be used as inspiration and not as absolutes. If there is an ingredient or two or three that I don't like in a recipe, I will still try it, but with my own preferred substitutions.

So with that in mind, here is my non-recipe recipe for one of our family's staples. This makes enough for my husband and me, our two kids, one hungry dinner guest, and lunch leftovers for all. Try it if you want, with your own substitutions and whatnot, and let me know what you think!

2 Tbs olive oil plus more for sauce if necessary
1/2 cup or so sliced onion
minced garlic
1.5 - 2 sliced red bell peppers
1-1.5 sliced orange bell pepper(s)
1 sliced yellow bell pepper
half & half if necessary/if you want to make the sauce creamy
1 package lean ground turkey
basil - either dried or fresh chopped
pasta - we prefer a corkscrew pasta such as rotini or fusili
salt & pepper
finely chopped parsley
grated romano or parmesan cheese (optional, but really makes the flavors pop if you add romano)

1. Boil enough water to cook your pasta. How much pasta? You decide. We usually do 1/2 a pound up to a whole pound depending on if we have a dinner guest or not.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Do a little dance, because the people who make olive oil deserve it.

3. Add sliced onions and peppers and minced garlic (see pic below). Saute until slightly tender but still crisp. You don't want to saute them too much or they won't puree as well in the food processor. PORTION NOTE: the more peppers you use, the heartier the sauce, so really, use however much you see fit. We usually stick to 1 to 1.5 of each type of pepper, with more of the red pepper than the orange and yellow, but if you want a sweeter sauce, go with more yellow or orange pepper. Just be aware of the shift in flavor and texture of sauce based on your portions of peppers.

4. When peppers are just tender enough, set peppers, onions and garlic mix into a food processor to cool for a bit. Make sure you've got a medium-sized food processor and not one of those rinky dink ones or you'll be cleaning up a big mess.

5. Sprinkle your dried basil or your finely chopped fresh basil on top of the pepper mix. Just be sure to use less if you are using dried basil since the taste of dried herbs is sharper than fresh. But then again, if you don't like basil, skip it. This is also good with thyme or sage, but I'd use those sparingly since they are both very strong herbs with distinct flavors that can overpower the peppers.

6. Meanwhile, your water should be boiling. What are you waiting for? Put the pasta in already.

7. Also while pepper mix is cooling a bit, go ahead and start to brown the ground turkey in the same skillet you used. You could brown the meat first and then the peppers, but I like cooking the peppers first because then the meat soaks up the pepper/onion/garlic taste from any remaining olive oil as it cooks.

8. While meat browns, go ahead and process the pepper mixture in the food processor. Now I sometimes add more olive oil and/or half & half in this step, depending on if we want the sauce to be saucier or thicker. Use your preference as your guide. Who am I to tell you what to do? Oh right, I'm writing the recipe. But I did warn you it's a non-recipe. Anywhoo... this is what it should look like when the mix is processed enough:

9. Add the pepper mix to the ground turkey as soon as the turkey is cooked enough. If you don't know how to tell if ground turkey is cooked enough, I can't help you. You shouldn't be cooking. But I can show you what the whole mixture should look like:

10. Stir the pepper mixture and the ground turkey until the pepper mixture is distributed evenly throughout.

11. The pasta should be done by now. Drain pasta water and add cooked pasta to the ground turkey pepper mixture.

12. Add salt & pepper to taste, plus fresh parsley and/or grated romano cheese and voila! You get something that should look like this:

I know, you're not supposed to serve food on blue plates because it makes the food less appetizing, but it takes a lot more than color theory to make food less appetizing to me, so those food critics can suck it. I think food looks great on blue plates and these Pottery Barn pasta bowls have lasted 7+ years, since we got them as wedding gifts.

So there you go. I told some of you who requested this recipe that I don't write recipes. If you make this and it sucks, don't blame me! Must be something you did. :) But really, there are many variations to this dish. Here are a few:

*substitute lean ground turkey for italian sausage
*substitute orange and yellow peppers for all red peppers
*substitute basil for the herb(s) of your choice
*substitute fusili or rotini for linguini, fettucine or penne...just not shells or ditalini or other small pasta shape
*substitute parmesan cheese for romano cheese
*add ricotta cheese to the mix of ground turkey and peppers, add cooked pasta, place into a baking dish, sprinkle with generous amounts of mozarella cheese, and bake in 375 degree oven until set for a super tasty baked pasta dish.


Brandie said...

Love this! Going to put it in the din-din rotation soon.
Try turkey italian sausage... ahh yes, the sweet kind for the kiddies works well too. Also, adding a ladel or two of pasta water (after cooking pasta) makes a nice sauce without half & half (yes, it's possible I watch WAY too much FoodTV)
And, did you just tell the food industry to "suck it" on the blue plates? I knew I liked you. ;)

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Mary Brady said...

I just made a veggie version of this tonight. Yum! Thanks for the non-recipe! :)

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marlynn said...

Brandie-uh yeah, I did just tell the food industry to suck it :) I'm all talk until they come around to call me on it! :)

Mary - oh I am so glad you tried it and liked it! I forgot to mention that you can, of course, do this without the meat all together.

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