Tex-Mex Penne

Tex-Mex Penne
A true pantry special, this recipe, great for potlucks, works best with a pasta that holds on to the sauce, like penne rigate (small quills, with the lines) or rotini (corkscrews). Serves 8; can be doubled, or made ahead and reheated.

Recipe: Tex-Mex Penne


  • 1 lb pasta (penne rigate or rotini)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb ground turkey (you can substitute beef, but reduce oil to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 4-oz can fire-roasted green chiles, drained
  • 16 oz canned chopped tomato
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper


  1. Store-bought shredded reduced-fat Mexican four-cheese blend, for topping (or other cheese of your choice)
  2. Prepare the pasta according to package directions, until the pasta is still a bit undercooked but almost al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. AT THE SAME TIME, when you start the pasta water, prepare the sauce. In a large, deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and cook the onion for 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the ground turkey, and cook, breaking up the pieces, until lightly browned. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano and red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Add green chiles, canned tomato, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, uncovered, until mixture has reduced to desired consistency, approximately 20-25 minutes. (If the sauce gets done before the pasta is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and set it aside; bring back to the heat when you’re ready to add the pasta.)
  4. Add the pasta into the sauce, and cook, stirring well, until the pasta and sauce have come together, 2-3 minutes. Either stir in the shredded cheese, or pour the pasta into a serving bowl and pass the cheese separately, for each person to add to taste.


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