Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Light on calories, heavy on flavor

Good evening everyone! If you live in the greater Des Moines metro – welcome to winter! 2 inches of fluffy white snow and 30 MPH winds were not a very welcome sight today. It was a nasty slap of a reminder that winter can (and will) appear at any time. What’s the best way to fight away the cold winter winds? By spending time in a warm kitchen cooking up a delicious dinner of course! We’ve got a just such a dish lined up for you tonight, check it out:

The Recipe: Penne With Turkey Ragu
Original Recipe Found In: Food Network Magazine, January/February 2012 Issue

What You’ll Need:

8 Ounces Ground Turkey
12 Ounces Penne
2 Leeks (White & green parts only) Finely Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
1 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
¼ Fresh Basil (Chopped)
2 Tablespoons Half and Half
3 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Begin by bringing a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a 12 inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the leeks and cook until they become slightly translucent and softened – about two minutes.

Next, add the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant – this takes around 30 seconds. Finally, add the turkey to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the turkey browns, this takes roughly 5 minutes.

Note: the original instructions called for the leeks, garlic and turkey to all be cooked at once in the skillet. However, I’ve found that this method isn’t the best for cooking leeks/onions with some form of meat. You’re usually left with some undercooked onions and the garlic never gets a chance to fully ‘burst’ into the pan. Simply by adding a few minutes to your cooking time and cooking each ingredient one at a time, you can greatly add to the flavor and quality of the final dish.

Once the turkey has browned, add the tomatoes, a cup and a half of water (note, we opted omit the water and make a thicker sauce. The amount of water needed will vary greatly based on the type of crushed tomatoes you use) and a pinch of salt and pepper to the skillet. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, making sure to stir occasionally, allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes before reducing the heat to medium. Add ½ of the basil, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes until it thickens. If you find your sauce is becoming a little too thick, you can add another ½ cup of water to the pan to thin it out slightly. This is all to your preference. If you’re a fan of a thicker sauce, cut the water down even farther.

Next, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as instructed by the package directions. Once the pasta is tender, reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Once drained, turn your attention back to the sauce – add the half and half, remaining basil and 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese. Stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the pasta into the sauce and toss to coat everything evenly (you may find it easier to transfer the both the sauce and pasta to a large bowl and toss there, the skillet could be getting a little crowded by now). Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese and a little additional basil over the pasta and serve! (Use the reserved ½ cup of cooking water if the mixture is too thick)

The Results:

There’s a reason this dish was under Food Network’s “Healthy Eating” section – this dish is so light and fresh it’s hard to believe that you’ve made a ragu sauce. The typical ragu sauce is overly beefy and very heavy. This ragu, while still holding a nice amount of turkey in every bite, was very light and complimented well with the penne. The flavors are great, and I’ve finally found a traditional ‘meat sauce’ (aka ragu) that isn’t overbearing. If you love Italian flavors but still want to eat a little bit healthier, you cannot go wrong with this delish dish!

That’s all we have for you this evening. Maggie takes to the kitchen tomorrow night with a brand new recipe. Until then,


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