This quick, easy and healthy ground turkey pasta comes together quickly in under 30 minutes, and the healthy creamy sauce will jazz up any 1-pound package of ground turkey you might have on hand. An easy dinner idea you’ll want to make on repeat!

Close up shot of a pan filled with cooked pasta shells, ground turkey, and marinara on the gray background with a wooden spoon.

5 star review

“I made this again, the same way and still delicious! My boyfriend said it’s the best meal he’s ever eaten. Thank you!!”

– Kris

About This Ground Turkey Recipe

If you happen to have 1 pound of ground turkey kicking around in your fridge or freezer, then do I have a quick, easy and healthy 30-minute meal for you!

Since one of my specialties is simplifying meals, with this recipe I wanted to create a last minute dinner idea you could throw together on a busy weeknight, but also keep it fresh and flavorful enough that it works for entertaining guests as well.

For the creamy tomato sauce I simplified the cooking process by using a savory marinara sauce (use store bought or make your own homemade marinara) as well as a few tablespoons of cream cheese for a silky, creamy finish.

To make this a healthy ground pasta recipe, I added 3 cups of veggies in the form of onion, zucchini, and carrot, plus cut the cream and most of the cheese found in similar recipes.

Don’t worry, though, the vegetables in this ground turkey recipe melt down into the sauce so they are barely noticeable, and the cream cheese still lends a lovely, creamy texture to the sauce.

Visual Guide: How to Make Ground Turkey Pasta

Jump to Recipe Instructions

Process & Tips

Making this easy ground turkey recipe couldn’t be easier. 

First, boil the pasta shells until slightly undercooked, then set aside along with a bit of the pasta cooking water.

If you prefer to make ground turkey spaghetti or any other type of pasta, simply cook up any pasta shape you have on hand in place of the shells.

While the pasta cooks, chop the onion and grate the carrot and zucchini, which allows the vegetables to “melt” into the sauce and become mostly undetectable. 

You can also peel the zucchini first if you want to avoid any green parts appearing in the final sauce.

Then cook the veggies until tender, add the turkey and spices, brown, then add the marinara and cream cheese to finish the sauce.

Finally toss in the cooked pasta along with the reserved pasta water for a restaurant-quality pasta dinner at home!

Make it Gluten Free or Dairy Free

The sauce for this ground turkey pasta is naturally gluten free, so just be sure to use gluten free pasta for a gluten free diet. For dairy free, use a dairy free cream cheese.

Overhead shot of a pan filled with cooked pasta shells, ground turkey, and marinara with basil and parmesan on the gray background.

How to Store & Freeze

The pasta and sauce keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days, in a sealed container.

This recipe also freezes well, so store in a sealed freezer friendly container for up to 3 months.

How to Thaw Ground Turkey Fast

If you have frozen ground turkey that you need to thaw fast for this recipe, you can either remove it from its packaging, place in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave it using the “defrost” setting of your microwave for two minutes per pound, stopping at each minute to break the meat apart for even defrosting.

Alternatively, if the turkey is in a plastic, water-tight package, place the package in a large bowl of cold water for about one hour per one pound of meat.

Make Ahead Tip

If you’d like to make this recipe ahead, I recommend preparing the pasta and sauce and storing each separately, along with the pasta water stored separately. When ready to serve, reheat the sauce, then add the pasta and pasta water and simmer on low until warmed through.

This Recipe is…

Key Ingredients & Substitutions

Pasta: I love using medium shells for this recipe because they “grab” the ground turkey and sauce so well, but feel free to use whatever dry pasta you have on hand, including bow tie pasta or spaghetti.

Yellow onion:

Zucchini: Zucchini add moisture and veggie power, but you can skip it if you don’t like zucchini or don’t have it on hand. You can also peel the zucchini to keep any green pieces from showing in the sauce.

Carrot: Again, adds moisture and veggie power, plus extra natural sweetness. Use a whole carrot rather than baby carrots for best flavor, but you can skip it if you don’t want to use carrot.

Ground turkey: I like using 93% lean ground turkey for this recipe because the extra fat adds flavor and is more budget friendly, however, 99% lean ground turkey will also work.

Italian seasoning: A blend of dried herbs, Italian seasoning adds tons of flavor without adding additional salt, but if you don’t have it dried oregano can be used.

Marinara sauce: I love using homemade marinara sauce in this recipe for extra flavor, but any good quality store bought marinara will work.

Cream cheese: Cream cheese is the “secret” ingredient in this recipe, lending a creamy, cheesy flavor without being heavy. Use dairy free cream cheese for a dairy free option.

Serving Suggestions

Because of the protein in the ground turkey and nutrients in the veggies, this is easy pasta recipe is really a stand alone meal. However, to boost the veggies, make it ground turkey pasta with spinach by adding 2 handfuls of baby spinach at the end of the cooking time. Alternatively, serve it with a green salad tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

A wooden spoon scooping a serving of cooked shell pasta with ground turkey and marinara.

Follow my step-by-step video:

Close up shot of a pan filled with cooked pasta shells, ground turkey, and marinara on the gray background with a wooden spoon.
4.94 stars (15 ratings)

Ground Turkey Pasta

This quick and easy ground turkey pasta comes together quickly in under 30 minutes, and is an easy dinner idea you’ll want to make on repeat!

Ingredients

  • (8-oz) medium-sized pasta shells, gluten free for gluten free diet
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups grated zucchini 
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt added Italian seasoning
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 cups (24-oz) marinara sauce

To Add at the End

  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese

Optional Serving Suggestions

  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to taste, then cook the pasta 2-3 minutes short of the package instructions. Carefully ladle out ½ cup pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini and carrot, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, then cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn the heat to medium high, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, turkey, ¼ teaspoon salt and Italian seasoning. Break the turkey into small pieces, then cook until browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce, stir, cover and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce to a low simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the cream cheese, stirring until well incorporated. Add the drained pasta along with the pasta cooking water, stirring to combine. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
  • Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese and fresh basil if desired.

Notes

See blog post, above, for ingredient substitutions, storage, and more.

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 (of 6), Calories: 374kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 63mg, Sodium: 748mg, Potassium: 816mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 4317IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 72mg, Iron: 3mg
Nutrition disclaimer
Did you make this recipe?If you do, be sure to share it on Instagram and tag me at @realfoodwholelife so I can see!

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