Turkey Ragu. That’s what’s for dinner.

Now that the kids are on summer vacation I find we’re almost busier than during the school year. Trips to the pool, adventures at the park, lunches on the lawn, leave little time for thoughts of “what’s for dinner?” Nor do we really want to think about it when the sun is high, and so is the fun.

So after a long day of playground hopping, and Minecraft crafting, it was 5 o’clock and that bothersome question popped up once again. I went with my go-to healthy, but quick and tasty Penne with Turkey Ragu. Fresh basil makes this dish one of my favourites, along with a simple crushed tomato sauce and hearty ground turkey. I do modify the original a bit to suit my taste.

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The recipe calls for 2 leeks, chopped, along with 2 cloves of garlic, which I usually double. This girl loves her garlic.

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The recipe also calls for only 1/4 cup of basil, but it’s my favourite herb so I use way more. Along with some stems from my herb pot, I usually use one of those large bags of basil you find in the produce department at Safeway. I think this adds an amazing fresh flavour.

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Once you’ve hand crushed your San Marano tomatoes (watch out, no matter how many times I make this dish I always get splash back when I squeeze those juicy suckers) you’re supposed to add 2 cups of water. I usually go with 1, or 1 1/2, as I don’t like the sauce too watery.

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They also suggest reserving some of the pasta water to toss with the noodle mixture at the end, but I usually skip that since I don’t mind my noodles being well-coated in the simmered sauce.

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We usually serve this up with fresh veg, or salad, and some focaccia or my favourite homemade soft bread sticks

One dinner down, millions more to go!

Penne with Turkey Ragu

Ingredients
Salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces ground turkey
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for topping
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus the rind (optional)
12 ounces penne
2 tablespoons half-and-half

Directions
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic and turkey and cook, stirring, until the turkey browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high, bring the sauce to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add half of the basil and the parmesan rind and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Stir the half-and-half, the remaining basil and 2 tablespoons cheese into the sauce. Add the pasta and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved pasta water to loosen, if needed. Remove the parmesan rind and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta among bowls. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon cheese and more basil.

Simple Sage

Summer equals fresh – from the farm strawberries, carrots with green tops, and herbs, my favourite green thumb goodies. While basil and mint are my musts, I also love sage. Being highly-aromatic, sage is perfect for pasta, but also goes well with gourmet grilled cheese (try a mozza-sage some lunch time and you’ll be kicking plain cheddar to the curb).

DSC02146Tortellini with Sage-Walnut Butter is one of my favourite pasta dishes to make because it sounds so posh, but is actually quite simple (you don’t have to tell anyone though). But, the key, I believe, it being able to step outside and pluck those fabulous suede-like leaves right before you put them in the pan.

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This sage sauce and balsamic drizzle that accompanies it can be pretty much completed by the time your tri-colour tortellini cooks, making it a great weekday dinner.

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I like to use a little more butter than what’s called for, and let the sage simmer in it low and slow for about 5 minutes. The recipe calls for 1 cup of pasta water, but I think that waters down the herbalicious flavour.

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At the same time work on the balsamic/honey glaze in another pot/pan. I’ve never really understood what bay leaves do for sauces, so if you don’t have one handy for this, don’t worry it doesn’t make much difference. Go low and slow on this one too, it can get thick quick.

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Once your pasta is cooked toss it with your beautiful sage butter, and drizzle as little or as much balsamic sauce as you want on top.

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Tortellini with Sage-Walunt Butter

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Bay leaf
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. sage leaves
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 lb. tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan

Directions

  • Combine 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp. honey, and a bay leaf in a saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until syrupy, 5 minutes.
  • Melt 6 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add 1/3 c. sage leaves and 1 c. chopped walnuts; cook 3 minutes. Add 1 c. pasta-cooking water and cook until reduced by half, 2 minutes (I don’t, but up to you).
  • Toss with 1 lb. cooked tortellini, some grated Parmesan and salt. Drizzle with the balsamic syrup.