Turkey, Spinach & Tomato Pasta Bake

Turkey, Spinach & Tomato Pasta Bake with a fresh basil pot next to it on the counter.

I’ve been talking a lot about routines recently, probably because ours is changing. A few days back in the office for J a week for the first time since February 2020 means a few changes for us at home, but it also means a few nights a week I can’t just make whatever I want for dinner anymore, I need to make something that can be done ahead and can be eaten at anytime, regardless of what time he walks in the door or if I’ve had to go pick him up from somewhere because something has gone wrong with the trains.

For his first day I made one of both of our favourites, my Slow Cooker Sausage & Butter Bean Casserole which happily blipped away until we were both ready – it turned out I ended up working longer on that day out of the both of us and it was a total life saver. So, today I thought I’d return to something I used to make a lot when we lived in West London, J went into the office every day and I had only just gone full time with food blogging: this Turkey, Tomato & Spinach Pasta Bake.

Turkey, Spinach & Tomato Pasta Bake with a spoon lifting out a portion.
Turkey, Spinach & Tomato Pasta Bake close up with a spoon lifting out a portion.

It is no secret I’m a fan of Julia Turshen’s recipes – her veggie lasagna, caesar salad dressing, pickled jalapeno steak relish, and coriander coconut chutney all have permanent homes in my cooking rotation – and this recipe is another I’ve loosely adapted (read: changed up to suit just the two of us and the differences between British and American ingredients) from her second solo cookbook Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers (ad), a brilliant collection of menus with recipes for what to do with the leftovers the next day. It’s light, hearty, relatively healthy and makes great leftovers: say hello to your new favourite pasta bake.

What sort of spinach should I use?

Actually, yes. I usually buy regular frozen spinach but I accidentally picked up a bag of chopped frozen spinach once and I find it has a really slimy texture and it is really hard to remove all the water from, even though it was the same supermarket brand. Whilst frozen chopped spinach may be good for saag aloo, stick to regular frozen spinach here.

If you’ve got some fresh to use up, wilt it down in a frying pan with a splash of oil over a medium heat before combining it with the creme fraiche and cheese.

Does it matter what sort of turkey mince I use?

While you’ll still get a tasty pasta bake, try to buy turkey thigh mince rather than turkey breast mince, which has much less fat or flavour which may be a little dryer. Don’t worry if you’re trying to be healthy – they’re both relatively lean options! For my American readers ground chicken would also work great here, you’re looking for between 5%-10% fat for a nice moist pasta bake.

Turkey, Spinach & Tomato Pasta Bake close up to show all of the crispy pasta and melted mozzarella cheese on top.
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Turkey, Spinach & Tomato Pasta Bake

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Resting Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 34 1x
  • Category: Dinner

Description

This light and easy turkey, spinach and tomato pasta bake is a real crowd pleaser, and can be assembled ahead ready to bake when it is time for dinner!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 250g (9 oz) penne pasta or another tube pasta shape
  • sea salt
  • 1 tbsp light oil
  • 400g (14 oz) turkey thigh mince
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 x 400g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock
  • 120g (4 1/4 oz) light creme fraiche
  • 30g (1 oz) freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 x 125g (4 1/2 oz) ball mozzarella
  • 140g (5 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
  • 2 large basil sprigs
  • generous pinch grated nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (390 farenheit).
  2. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add the turkey and fry with a generous pinch of sea salt, breaking up with a wooden spoon for 5-6 minutes until all the water has evaporated away and the turkey has started to brown – don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom of the pan a little!
  4. Peel and mince or crush the garlic cloves before stirring them into the pan, cooking for a minute until fragrant. 
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes and the chicken stock, using the stock to wash any leftover tomato from the tin. Season generously with salt and pepper before reducing the heat to low. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  6. While the sauce is cooking, stir together the creme fraiche, grated parmesan, half the ball of mozzarella torn into small pieces, the spinach, roughly chopped, and the basil, stems and all, roughly chopped. Season with a pinch of nutmeg and 1/2 tsp of sea salt.
  7. Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce until well coated and spoon half into a medium baking dish. Mine is 8 inches x 8 inches, and reasonably deep. 
  8. Dollop the spinach mix evenly over the pasta, then spoon the rest of the pasta and sauce over the top. Top with the remaining mozzarella, again torn into small pieces, and a generous few grinds of black pepper.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving with a green salad.

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