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Italian Flag Baked Pasta

by , featured in Now and Again
Published by Chronicle Books
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Introduction

Each of the components of this easy baked pasta can have a life of its own. The turkey-tomato sauce is an excellent and quick meat sauce that's perfect for weeknight dinners. It's great on pasta or polenta or just eaten solo alongside a pile of cooked, garlicky greens. Feel free to substitute ground beef, pork, or chicken for the turkey (or leave the meat out entirely if you're vegetarian or want to be for this meal). The spinach mixture can be stirred into scrambled eggs, turned into a toast topping, or used as ravioli filling if you like making homemade pasta.

Each of the components of this easy baked pasta can have a life of its own. The turkey-tomato sauce is an excellent and quick meat sauce that's perfect for weeknight dinners. It's great on pasta or polenta or just eaten solo alongside a pile of cooked, garlicky greens. Feel free to substitute ground beef, pork, or chicken for the turkey (or leave the meat out entirely if you're vegetarian or want to be for this meal). The spinach mixture can be stirred into scrambled eggs, turned into a toast topping, or used as ravioli filling if you like making homemade pasta.

Image of Julia Turshen's Italian Flag Baked Pasta
Photo by David Loftus

Ingredients

Serves: 6

Metric Cups
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground dark-meat turkey
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 x 28 ounces can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 leafy sprigs of fresh basil (tough stems reserved and leaves roughly chopped)
  • 1 pound short ridged pasta (whatever type you like)
  • 2 x 10 ounces packs frozen spinach (defrosted, squeezed dry, and roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 455 grams minced dark-meat turkey
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 x 794 grams can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 leafy sprigs of fresh basil (tough stems reserved and leaves roughly chopped)
  • 455 grams short ridged pasta (whatever type you like)
  • 2 x 280 grams packs frozen spinach (defrosted, squeezed dry, and roughly chopped)
  • 240 grams creme fraiche or sour cream
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 75 grams finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 100 grams coarsely grated mozzarella

Method

Italian Flag Baked Pasta is a guest recipe by Julia Turshen so we are not able to answer questions regarding this recipe

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F [200°C].
  2. Get a large pot of water going on the stove top for your pasta. If it boils before you’re ready to cook the pasta, just turn it down (better for it to wait for you than vice versa).
  3. In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Break up the turkey into small pieces, add it to the pot, and season aggressively with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the meat is cooked through and very nicely browned and any liquid it released has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes (along with their juice), basil stems, and another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Give the whole mixture a good stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it is slightly reduced and smells wonderful, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the basil stems. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.
  4. At this point, your pasta water should be boiling. Salt it generously and add the pasta. Cook it until just al dente (remember it will bake for a while), about 1 minute less than the package instructs. Drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the tomato sauce, and stir well to combine.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, put the spinach, crème fraîche, nutmeg, Parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and the chopped basil leaves into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and stir well to combine.
  6. Spoon one-third of the sauced pasta into a 9-by-13-in [23-by-33-cm] baking dish and spread into an even layer. Dot the pasta with half of the spinach mixture and use a spoon or even just your clean hands to spread the spinach mixture in an even layer. Continue with half of the remaining pasta, all of the remaining spinach mixture, and then the final bit of pasta. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top.
  7. Bake the pasta, uncovered, until it is gorgeously browned and the edges are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let it rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. This resting time lets everything settle into place.
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F [200°C].
  2. Get a large pot of water going on the stove top for your pasta. If it boils before you’re ready to cook the pasta, just turn it down (better for it to wait for you than vice versa).
  3. In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Break up the turkey into small pieces, add it to the pot, and season aggressively with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the meat is cooked through and very nicely browned and any liquid it released has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes (along with their juice), basil stems, and another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Give the whole mixture a good stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the sauce until it is slightly reduced and smells wonderful, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the basil stems. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.
  4. At this point, your pasta water should be boiling. Salt it generously and add the pasta. Cook it until just al dente (remember it will bake for a while), about 1 minute less than the package instructs. Drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the tomato sauce, and stir well to combine.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, put the spinach, crème fraîche, nutmeg, Parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and the chopped basil leaves into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and stir well to combine.
  6. Spoon one-third of the sauced pasta into a 9-by-13-in [23-by-33-cm] baking dish and spread into an even layer. Dot the pasta with half of the spinach mixture and use a spoon or even just your clean hands to spread the spinach mixture in an even layer. Continue with half of the remaining pasta, all of the remaining spinach mixture, and then the final bit of pasta. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top.
  7. Bake the pasta, uncovered, until it is gorgeously browned and the edges are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let it rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. This resting time lets everything settle into place.

Additional Information

It’s Me Again:

CREAMY SPINACH TOASTS
The spinach mixture from the baked pasta can be made on its own (or make extra on purpose) and then turned into delicious toasts. Grill, broil, or toast thick slices of bread, rub one side of each slice with a raw garlic clove to impart a little flavor, and then spread with the spinach mixture. Serve as is or run under the broiler to melt the cheese and brown the topping a little.

JUST A NOTE
I have not included a leftover suggestion for the baked pasta. That’s because I think the best thing about leftover baked pasta is not transforming it, but eating it cold out of the refrigerator. You could throw a serving in a waffle maker to warm it up and to create the most unbelievably crispy edges ever. But I recommend that only if you have a waffle maker with plates that can go in the dishwasher, or you’ll be trying to clean them up forever (I learned that the hard way).

It’s Me Again:

CREAMY SPINACH TOASTS
The spinach mixture from the baked pasta can be made on its own (or make extra on purpose) and then turned into delicious toasts. Grill, broil, or toast thick slices of bread, rub one side of each slice with a raw garlic clove to impart a little flavor, and then spread with the spinach mixture. Serve as is or run under the broiler to melt the cheese and brown the topping a little.

JUST A NOTE
I have not included a leftover suggestion for the baked pasta. That’s because I think the best thing about leftover baked pasta is not transforming it, but eating it cold out of the refrigerator. You could throw a serving in a waffle maker to warm it up and to create the most unbelievably crispy edges ever. But I recommend that only if you have a waffle maker with plates that can go in the dishwasher, or you’ll be trying to clean them up forever (I learned that the hard way).

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