Orecchiette is the cutest pasta ever.
They look like tiny little hats, and I love how they sometimes stack on top of each other and catch all the sauce in between. That’s also why I love them in this pasta bake. It’s oh so comforting and packed with flavor! I’ll admit it, and please don’t hate me, but this meal does require a fair amount of dishes at the end. There are several components (which are all easy!) to making this pasta dish the perfect warm and cozy dinner. The good news is, it makes enough for lots and lots of leftovers.
Unless of course you live in my house where Zach and I can polish off a box of pasta like there’s no tomorrow. It’s not something I’m proud of, trust me.
That’s not true. Anything I can do really well makes me proud. Even if that means eating an entire box of pasta on my own. I can’t help it. I’m competitive by nature, and I come from a long line of crazy competitive family members. Game night is serious business.
I love game night. Have you guys ever played Times Up? You need to. Hardest I’ve ever laughed. And of course Cards Against Humanity. Just depends on your mood. Do you feel like getting up and doing some charades? Or being super and ridiculously inappropriate to the point of peeing your pants? Either game guarantees an awesome night, and pair it with this pasta and your friends might never leave.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for browning the turkey
- 2 bell peppers, diced (I used orange and yellow)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
- 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, plus 1/2 teaspoon for ground turkey
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded jack cheese
- 3 cups spinach
- 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. Prepare a large pot of water for the pasta and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add peppers and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes until they begin to soften. Add garlic and cook another minute.
- 2) To the onion and peppers mixture, add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil, then simmer on low for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the ground turkey.
- 3) Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan and add ground turkey. Brown the meat with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Once turkey is no longer pink, add it to the sauce with the chopped basil and let it simmer for another 10-12 minutes.
- 4) Add a large pinch of salt to the boiling pasta water and add the pasta. Cook according to package. This happens while the sauce is simmering.
- 5) Once pasta is cooked, drain it and return cooked pasta to the empty pasta pot . Add both cheeses to the hot pasta and stir to coat. Add the turkey sauce mixture to the pasta and stir. Add spinach and stir until spinach wilts.
- 6) Pour into prepared baking dish, sprinkle with extra cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble.