So it seems like it does nothing but rain here... what happened to the sunshine and 80 degree weather? It feels like March not May. Last night, I came home from work and looked around my yard, my plants are growing, there are buds on the hydrangeas and the roses are blooming like crazy, but it still doesn't seem like we are only a week and a half from Memorial Day - summer's official start in my world. I think the dreary weather is making me feel like comfort food, I had a tub of ricotta on hand, so I decided to go ahead and use that and make a baked pasta dish. I didn't want to do a traditional lasagna or ziti so I made up this one as I went. It turned out great. Although really how could it not - pasta + garlic + cheese is almost always a winning combination.
The pesto and sun-dried tomatoes add so much flavor to this. You can make pesto yourself or buy it pre-made in the store, in the same area as the marinara sauce. If you buy it in the store, there is often sun-dried tomato or basil pesto available, for this recipe I used a basil pesto although either would work. If you use the sun-dried tomato pesto, I would leave out the actual tomatoes so it wouldn't be overpowering. Sun-dried tomatoes come packed in oil, I drain the oil off of them on a paper towel before chopping.
Baked Pesto Penne with Ricotta and Sun-dried Tomato
1/2 pound penne
12 oz lean ground turkey
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups spinach
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup pesto sauce
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T oregano, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
Heat a large pot of water to boiling, add generous pinch of salt and add pasta, cook until just al dente. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground turkey, add fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, and 1/2 crushed red pepper flakes. Drain and remove to a bowl.
Reduce heat to low, add oil to pan, add onions and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes until softened. Add spinach and sun-dried tomatoes and cook until wilted. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg, add ricotta and pesto sauce and remaining crushed red pepper flakes, add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and add to pan with spinach. Return turkey and onions to pan and mix well. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of water, and add to pan, add water if necessary to thin sauce.
Spray a 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray or grease lightly, add pasta, top with grated cheese and bake about 20 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Top with oregano and serve.