Every week I make at least one large-batch pasta dish. We usually eat it for dinner with a big salad and some yummy garlic bread, and then Ryan packs it for lunch a few days during the week because he is totally fine with cold pasta (and actually prefers it to heated-up leftover pasta). I once made an eggplant and ground turkey casserole, which was actually really good. That was when I was trying out the whole lactose/dairy-free diet. (This, from the girl who can’t live without cheese. No idea what I was thinking.) This time, I wanted to add pasta to it. And add pasta I did.
My inspiration: Eggplant Marinara from Meet Penny. But I wanted more than just eggplant. I wanted some extra protein, so I added 1/2 pound of ground turkey. I also cannot find tomatoes that I really like in the grocery store, so I go with canned most of the time. (Unless my dear grandma happens to have some extra home-grown beefsteak tomatoes laying around, of course. Those are to die for.) I have to say, this was really, really good. As usual, we had a few pieces of Texas toast and a salad with it and this was enough for more than 4 dinner-sized portions.
Eggplant and Ground Turkey Marinara
Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 10 min + boiling water | Serves: 4-6 (depending on sides)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 pound fresh ground turkey
- 1 eggplant, peeled and cubed small-ish (about 1-inch pieces)
- 1 clove garlic, minced (or 3/4 tsp minced garlic from a jar)
- 1 beef bouillon cube (low sodium preferred), crushed
- 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes (I use the roasted garlic and onion flavor or the Italian-style)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- approx. 1/2 pound (8 oz) pasta (I used angel hair this time because it’s what I had, but you could use bow-ties, penne, linguine, etc.)
- Boil a pot of salted water for the pasta. When water is ready, cook pasta as directed on box, drain, and toss with a small amount of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.
- Prepare ground turkey just like you would ground beef: brown in a skillet or pan (I used my Lodge cast iron dutch oven.) , except add a little bit (about 1 Tbsp) of oil while the pan is heating up. Ground turkey is slightly drier than ground beef and goes from done to over-done very quickly. As soon as it’s no longer pink, transfer it to a small bowl while you cook the eggplant.
- Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add garlic and eggplant, then sprinkle with the bouillon cube. The bouillon adds a rich, meaty-ness to the eggplant that you won’t get otherwise. It really makes this dish feel less like a substitute and more like “the real thing”.
- When eggplant is softened all the way through, add cooked ground turkey back to the pot. Then add the can of crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, and salt. Cover and simmer so that the flavors meld together. If needed, add a little bit of pasta water. I didn’t need to, even with the added turkey.
- Serve over pasta, with a side salad and a piece of garlic toast.