Using lean ground turkey breast turns these Turkey Stuffed Shells with Fresh Marinara Sauce into a low fat, easy, and tasty family-friendly meal.
The making of Turkey Stuffed Shells with Fresh Marinara Sauce
This recipe for Turkey Stuffed Shells with Fresh Marinara Sauce is another one that was "inspired" by Cooking Light Magazine.
A little backstory... When the company my husband worked for, Dollar-Rent-a-Car, moved its corporate offices from Los Angeles CA to Tulsa OK...we had to make some decisions about our life. At the time we had a one and a half-year-old little boy and while I'd lived in the Los Angeles area all my life and had been working in the banking industry for more than 20 years, working my way up from a teller to Sr. VP of Operations, we had also recently suffered through both the Northridge Earthquake and the aftermath of the South Central Los Angeles riots when a jury found LAPD not guilty of beating Rodney King.
Seeing men with shotguns on the roofs of buildings in your neighborhood when you drive home from work can be a little scary.
It was not a good time to be living in Los Angeles.
Tulsa looked great.
I had never been an "at home mom". I worked through my first son's childhood (always there for him and his events but I wasn't home when he got there) and my second son had a great nanny, but now here I was.
In Tulsa. Friendless.
Well, more or less friendless.
With a child that can't hold a conversation.
So I started working on my second greatest love. Cooking.
Cooking from Bon Appetit. Cooking from Saveur. Cooking from Food and Wine, Gourmet. Yes, cooking big, large, high-fat dinners with lots of cream, butter, sauces...Paula Deen would have been so proud.
Yes, I cooked myself and my husband from our Los Angeles weights to our Tulsa weights.
LA + 30.
It was not pretty.
And it didn't take long. I only lived in Tulsa for 14 months 5 days 12 ½ hours...
So I turned to Cooking Light to set us straight. And help us on our path back.
But I found/find Cooking Light's recipes to be a bit bland. Maybe America loves them, but I didn't. So I've learned to modify Cooking Light's recipes to add a bit more flavor, but not fat, and I've learned to cook all other recipes with less fat.
Seriously, there is so much fat you can cut from most recipes.
The result? Both my husband and I got back to our LA weights -10.
Then we moved to San Francisco and ate at the best restaurants in the world.
I quit smoking (yeah, good for me).
And well, I got older.
It's still a daily battle to maintain weight, but I make a valiant effort and am very conscientious of what I eat, and what I promote that you eat.
OK...present day...back to the recipe.
Turkey Stuffed Shells with Fresh Marinara Sauce is one of those recipes I had to tweak. It had a good backbone, but it lacked an overall yumminess. A richness. I took it from ordinary to extraordinary. I guess I did a pretty good job because this is still a family favorite.
But you won't find the recipe or anything like it in the Cooking Light archives. Guess their recipe didn't make their cut.
They should really try mine.
They might put it back in.
A note of cooking large pasta shells
Most recipes for cooking pasta tell you to cook them in "rapidly boiling water". I find that most all pasta will cook in almost any degree of boiling water, and doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot when cooked at a "slower" boil than a rapid boil. This is especially true when cooking large shells. Large shells have a tendency to break, and it's hard to stuff a broken shell. I used to boil 18 shells hoping for 12 good ones, but now, I just turned down the degree of boil, to barely a simmer, and find that all my shells, or at least most all of my shells, remain intact. You don't want to overcook them anyway since they will cook more in the sauce, so be sure to cook them at least 3 minutes less than the package directions tell you to. So boil them slowly, at almost a simmer, and stir carefully to keep them from sticking or breaking.
This recipe of course is called "with fresh marinara sauce" which is easy to make and keep in the freezer at the ready. If you don't have any fresh sauce in the freezer, use your favorite jarred sauce in its place.
Turkey Stuffed Shells with Fresh Marinara Sauce
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground turkey breast not to exceed 7% fat
- 1 medium onion chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 1 large carrot peeled and finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- ½ cup dry red wine
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese divided
- ¼ cup Fresh Homemade Ricotta or good quality part-skim ricotta (optional)
- 12 jumbo pasta shells cooked 3 minutes less than package directions, drained and cooled
- 3 cups Basic Marinara Sauce or 1 28 ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce
- Additional grated Parmesan cheese for passing
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- In a large non-stick skillet or saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and sauté, using a spoon to break it into small pieces. Cook until the turkey loses it's pink color, then add the onion and carrot. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 - 7 minutes.
- Combine the flour, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the turkey mixture and stir to incorporate it well. Stir in the wine; cook until thickened. Simmer over low heat for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add ½ of the Parmesan cheese and the ricotta cheese, if using. Stir until well blended. Allow the mixture to cool.
- When the mixture is cool enough to handle, stuff each shell with approximately loses heaping tablespoons of the turkey mixture. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, spreading it evenly. Arrange the shells over the sauce; spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until hot.
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