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  • Writer's pictureLeigh

A New Twist on Mac 'N Cheese: Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Pasta

Macaroni and cheese is great, especially when done in the slow cooker, which means you can put it together and forget about it until dinner time. Even better is Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Pasta. The dish is creamy and cheesy, like macaroni and cheese, but it also is "healthier" with the addition of lean ground turkey and pumpkin puree. The pasta dinner does its thing in the slow cooker in three to four hours, holds well on the "warm" setting, and is ready for dinner when you are. The dish is mild in flavor, lighter than macaroni and cheese, and yet it's still rich tasting thanks to the pumpkin puree, neufchatel cheese (light cream cheese), and a few sweet spices. I use penne in the recipe, but any similar size pasta will do. I also top the dish with Swiss cheese, but use the type of cheese you like and have available. A light scattering of Parmesan and mozzarella or even of cheddar would work. Leftovers heat well in the microwave and make great lunches, especially on busy days when you want something warm and comforting!

Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumkin Penne Pasta
A New Twist on Mac 'N Cheese: Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Pasta

Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Pasta -- Serves 4+

3 teaspoons of canola oil, divided

3 cups of small pasta (like penne)

1 large onion, chopped

16 ounces of lean ground turkey (93 percent)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of allspice

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of dried sage

1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 14-16-ounce can of pumpkin puree (or use 2 cups of winter squash puree)

1 1/2 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth (or reconstituted reduced sodium chicken

"Better Than Bullion)

1/4 cup of white wine or water

1 cup of milk (low-fat is fine)

8 ounces of softened Neufchatel/light cream cheese

6 slices of Swiss Cheese

Spritz the insert of your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray and add a teaspoon of oil and the pasta. Stir the pasta to coat it with the oil, turn the slow cooker on to high heat, and put on the cover. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Crumble in the ground turkey. Add the salt and pepper and saute the turkey and onion mixture together for about 10 minutes or until the onion has softened and the turkey has cooked through. Add the cinnamon, allspice, garlic powder, sage, and dried thyme and stir them into the turkey mixture. Stir in the pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the Neufchatel/light cream cheese until it is blended into the turkey/pumpkin mixture. Stir in the milk. Taste the sauce and, if you think it's necessary, add a little more salt. Turn off the heat under the sauce and add the turkey mixture to the slow cooker with the pasta. Stir the ingredients in the slow cooker to blend them together. Cover the slow cooker and cook the pasta for about an hour on high, then turn the heat to low and continue cooking the pasta until it is soft and the liquid has mostly been absorbed--about 2 1/2-3 hours. Remove the cover of the slow cooker. Place the slices of cheese on top of the pasta and recover the slow cooker for a few minutes or until the cheese melts. Turn off the slow cooker, remove the lid, and let the pasta stand for 5-10 minutes before serving it.

Slow Cooker Turkey and Pumpkin Penne Pasta
Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Pasta

Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Penne Pasta
A New Twist on Mac 'N Cheese: Fix and Forget, Slow Cooker Ground Turkey and Pumpkin Pasta

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