Healthy Cooking On A Budget: Southwestern Penne with Ground Turkey

By Yvonne Morales, Sargent Choice Nutrition Center Dietetic Intern

When I think of cooking with ground turkey breast I usually think of chili or turkey burgers. That is usually as far as my repertoire for the uses of ground turkey breast goes. This week I was asked to come up with a recipe for a lean meat so I decided to find more uses for ground turkey. Ground turkey breast is low in fat and rich in protein, zinc, iron, potassium and B vitamins making it a great addition to our diet.

Another great thing about ground turkey is that it has a mild taste that can be very versatile. A number of spice combinations can be used to enhance the flavor of ground turkey. Traditionally it has been paired with thyme, rosemary, marjoram, bay leaf and oregano. Imagine the flavors of a traditional roast turkey at a Thanksgiving dinner. Other cultures use different spices like coriander, cloves, peppercorn, garlic, cayenne pepper and, my personal favorite, cumin.

The recipe that I decided to demo at Health Cooking on a Budget class at the FitRec is full of Southwestern flavors. Combining cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder creates an extremely flavorful tomato sauce that goes extremely well with ground turkey. Poured over whole-grain penne it makes for an easy and delicious meal that can be made in no time.  Prepare it on Sunday and you will have great leftovers to eat for lunch.


Whole-Wheat Penne with Southwestern-Style Ground Turkey Sauce

Makes 4 servings


  • ½ cup minced red onion
  • 1 tbso olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup dice bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb. 99% lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 14-oz can plum tomatoes including juice
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 8 oz whole grain penne
  • Grated Monterey Jack Cheese for sprinkling

Easy Substitutions:

  • Substitute ground turkey with Ground Veggie Protein Crumbles to make the dish vegetarian.


  1. In a large skillet cook the onion in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is softened, add the garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper; cook the mixture stirring for 1 minute.
  2. Add the turkey and cook the mixture over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the turkey is no longer pink.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes with the juice, breaking them up, the red pepper flakes, the chopped coriander and salt and pepper to taste and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until it is thickened.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, in a kettle of boiling water cook the whole-grain penne according to package directions.
  5. Divide pasta in 4 bowls and serve sauce over the pasta and sprinkle the Monterey Jack cheese

Nutrition Facts: Serving 1 ½ cup

Calories 410
Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Protein 37 g
Carbohydrate 51 g
Fiber 7 g
Sodium 380 mg


Cost Analysis: * prices taken from Peapod

Item Size Price Amount Needed Price per Batch
Red Onion Each 1.29 0.5 cup minced 1.29
Sliced Mushrooms 8 oz 1.99 1 cup 1.99
Bell Pepper Each 0.99 1 cup 0.99
Whole-grain penne 13 oz 1 8 oz 0.62
Garlic 1 head 0.5 1 clove 0.05
Olive Oil * Pantry Item
Chili Powder * Pantry Item
Ground Cumin * Pantry Item
Cayenne Pepper * Pantry Item
Red Pepper Flakes * Pantry Item
Fresh Coriander 1 bunch 1.59 1/4 cup 0.80
Ground Turkey 1 lb 3.99 1 lb 3.99
Canned Plum Tomato 28 oz 4.99 14 oz 2.50
Monterey Jack Cheese 1/2 pound 3.99 1 oz 0.50
Price Whole Recipe $12.72
Price Per Serving $3.18



distillery equipment posted on July 27, 2022 at 2:06 am

nice to meet you

Boyacı Ustası posted on April 19, 2023 at 5:30 pm

Wow! It is deicious. Thank you for recipe.

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