I stared at this screen for about 20 minutes before I decided to walk away and get some sunshine.
Working from home can often mean that the majority of the day can go by without me even thinking about going outside. It isn’t that I don’t want to- I love outside. It’s that I get so busy I just forget.
Then it’s 2:30 in the afternoon, I’m getting a little sleepy and my brain has basically clocked out for the day. My solution, aside from temporarily indulging in the idea of simply binge watching Friends for the remainder of the day, was to get my butt outside, move my body, get my blood flowing and soak up some glorious sunshine. Just shy of an hour later, I came back refreshed and ready to go. My brain started working again and I felt like I could hammer some more stuff out.
Stuff like talking to you about this one pot healthy stuffed pepper pasta.
When Mark and I first started dating, he lived in a semi-crappy 600 sq foot (I don’t even know if it was even 600) apartment with the tiniest kitchen of life. It had literally like 5 inches of counter space. This was not conducive to cooking which was just fine for him since, you know, he didn’t cook. He put frozen things in the oven, dumped the odd thing in his slow cooker or he just ate take out. I mean, I’m sure he boiled pasta at some point as well, but you get me.
This didn’t work for me, though. My solution? I prepared our meals at my house and then brought them to his apartment to finish cooking. Usually that meant prepping veggies and meatloaves, meatballs, pasta sauce and casseroles. Those were the easiest things to prep, transfer and finish at his place.
Stuffed pepper casserole was one of our favorites. So much so that I distinctly remember eating it for breakfast, cold out of his fridge on more than one occasion. Did I mention he had zero food for breakfast as well?
Anywho, the stuffed pepper casserole was actually made with brown rice and took more than one pot which was no problem at my own house with excessive amounts of counter space and, ahem, a dishwasher. It still isn’t a problem in our current house which also has counter space (albeit a lot less) and a perfectly functioning dishwasher.
After getting all of the ingredients to remake this healthy casserole for you people, I realized I forgot the rice and I wasn’t going back to the store. No, no. I was done with stores. Then I also decided I didn’t fancy turning the oven on and I really didn’t feel like washing several dishes… even if they would all fit in our dishwasher.
Some pantry digging and a frugal, lazy girl mindset turned the casserole in to a one pot stuffed pepper pasta. And it was good. So good.
Except I overcooked the pasta which is just one of the worst things you can do. So don’t do that. Don’t overcook your pasta.
Aside from mushy pasta, we have loads of healthy things happening here. Ground turkey, chopped up bell peppers, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots and a whole lotta love (cheese).
You could go the extra mile and use whole grain elbows. I would have done that if it had been in my pantry… but it wasn’t. There were white elbows and white elbows only.
Good thing we like both.
Oh I think there’s some zucchini in there, too. But I feel like that must be obvious since it’s still summer and we all have the zucchini abundance problem. If you don’t have that problem or, ya know, you aren’t making this in the summer since it’s pretty cold weather comfort food appropriate, leave it out. I won’t even write it in the recipe. Consider it ignored.
- 1 pound dark or light ground turkey (I use dark)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 3 large bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 6oz can tomato paste + 18oz water (can filled 3 times)
- 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 C uncooked elbow macaroni
- 3.5-4 C water or low sodium chicken broth
- 1 C shredded cheddar cheese
- In a deep, large skillet, heat over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey (if using extra lean, you will need a swig of olive oil. Dark has some fat so it doesn't typically stick!). Brown, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Cook, stirring every so often for about 8 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- If there's fat in the pan from the turkey (there will be with dark), wipe it away. If not, cool!
- Add the olive oil and, once hot, add the onion, celery, carrot and peppers along with a good pinch of salt.
- Cook, stirring often until the veggies have softened, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, oregano and garlic and continue cooking until the paste has browned a bit, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the water and can of diced tomatoes along with another solid couple pinches of salt. Stir until smooth and return the turkey to the pot. Allow to simmer for a minimum of 10 minutes then add the pasta and water or broth* see note!
- Cook for 6-8 minutes or until al dente (don't over cook!!). Add extra water if necessary.
- Once pasta is done, taste, adjust salt and pepper as needed then top with cheddar cheese. Remove from heat and allow cheese to melt for about 1-2 minutes. Serve warm.
If you use broth, use low sodium (hahaah). I recommend this because you have more control over the overall saltiness of your dish by using low or no sodium. I like to control my salt to my own taste and I'm sure you do, too!
Leftovers keep well for up to 5 days. It's best to reheat in the oven at 350F for about 20-25 minutes or even heated up gently on the stove top. I hate microwave so I just don't use them/we don't even have one.
You do you.