Spring has finally arrived! The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. And I’m definitely ready to put those hearty winter meals behind me for now – my tastebuds are yearning for some lighter, fresher flavors!
So in honor of spring and all of its gloriousness, here’s a pasta dish that’s just perfect for a light spring supper. It’s creamy and cheesy, but still bright and fresh with a generous helping of vibrant green peas. I kept it a little on the lighter side by using milk and chicken broth instead of heavy cream and then added in some lean ground turkey (which you could totally omit for a vegetarian version).
I like to serve this as a main dish accompanied by a simple green salad. And you can’t go wrong by adding a glass of wine (or sparkling water) and a piece of homemade garlic toast.
- If you can get your peas fresh from your spring garden, that’s just fabulous, but frozen peas work just as well. And if you aren’t a fan of peas then just substitute another seasonal spring veggie like asparagus or artichokes.
- Change it up by using chicken sausage instead of ground turkey. Leave out the meat entirely and double the veggies for a vegetarian option.
- I used extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, but use any light-colored cheese that you enjoy. Swiss, gruyere, mozzarella, or Havarti are good choices (avoid yellow cheeses unless you don’t mind a yellow sauce). You can even use a blend of cheeses like a mix of Italian-style cheeses.
- I use milk in the recipe to keep it light, but you can make it a bit richer by substituting half and half.
- It’s totally optional, but I like to add a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, dill, and/or chives) before serving.
- The recipe calls for mini-penne pasta, but use whatever shape you like.
- Be generous with the salt and pepper to avoid a bland-tasting sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Happy Spring and I hope you enjoy!
- 8 ounces mini penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 cup frozen peas (precook if using fresh peas)
- Salt and pepper
- Handful of chopped fresh herbs (optional)
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and ground turkey. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Use a spatula to break up the ground turkey and cook until lightly browned and fully cooked through.
- Add garlic to the browned turkey and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the butter and flour. Cook and stir gently for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken broth and milk. Allow the liquid to come to a gentle boil then reduce heat to low.
- Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted into the sauce. Add ground mustard, nutmeg, and peas. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.
- Garnish with lemon zest, lemon juice, and chopped fresh herbs (optional but highly recommended).
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