Using ground turkey, a low-fat alternative that’s naturally leaner than other meat, I’ll show you how to whip up this delicious turkey pasta recipe in either an Instant Pot, the stove-top or your slow-cooker. No matter which cooking method you choose, this is comfort food at its best.

Why You’ll Love This Turkey Pasta Recipe

  • Ground turkey is a great alternative to red meats as it’s lower in fat (usually 7%) and calories.
  • It’s a budget alternative to more expensive types of meat. Ground turkey costs typically between $4-$7 per pound depending on the quality and store (as of early 2024).
  • Each cup size serving of this recipe is around 330 calories so its perfect if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight.
  • The melting Fortina gives it comfort food Mac and Cheese vibes
  • You can add other ingredients to spice it up or bulk it out
  • Its perfect for food prepping, you can make it in large quantities and freeze it for later
Close up view of ground turkey pasta with elbow macaroni.

Ingredients For Ground Turkey Pasta

  1. 1lb Lean ground turkey – this will also work with beef, pork or lamb. I choose lean ground turkey because of the reduced fat content and because its budget friendly
  2. Olive oil – I love the rich flavor of olive oil which is important when using lean ground turkey, and its healthier compared with vegetable oils
  3. 1 Medium Onion – Yellow or red onions will work with this dish. Dice it finely
  4. Salt & Pepper – Half a teaspoon of the salt and a quarter of the pepper will do. Adjust to your own taste during cooking
  5. Thyme – Half a teaspoon or so or some mixed Italian herbs
  6. Ketchup – A quarter cup. You could use tomato paste instead in place of the ketch-up
  7. Elbow Macaroni – I’ve used this type of pasta but penne pasta would also be a good choice. Any smallish pasta that will be coated with the sauce will work. Whole wheat pasta is a good healthy alternative.
  8. 3 Cups of Beef Stock – This gives the dish the richness of flavor but there’s no reason you couldn’t use chicken stock. Even better if you have homemade chicken stock. I always use an organic beef stock if I can find it.
  9. 8 oz Fontina Cheese grated. This melts beautifully but a mature cheddar cheese would work well too.

Other Ingredients and Switches You Could Make

  • Stir in a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach at the end before the cheese to add to the vegetable count.
  • A few tablespoons of greek yoghurt stirred in with the cheese would give it some additional creaminess
  • A can of chopped tomatoes added after the onions have browned would give this some added richness and flavor without many additional calories.
  • If you’re using the skillet method to make this, you could use spaghetti instead of macaroni shells
  • A dash of red wine to the sauce whilst it’s bubbling in the skillet or after you’ve browned the meat will give it an extra edge. Balsamic vinegar would have a similar effect
  • There’s no reason not to add a bit of sliced garlic when you’re sautéing the onions.
  • Add some color at the end with fresh basil sprinkled on top

How To Make Ground Turkey Pasta (3 cooking methods using an Instant Pot, Stove Top or Slow Cooker)

You can easily make this recipe in the following three ways;

Method 1 – The Instant Pot

  • Heat the olive oil on SAUTE mode with the pressure cooker’s lid off.  Place the turkey into the cooker and cook until it’s browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cheese, to the cooker.  Securely lock the lid and set on MANUAL for 6 minutes at HIGH pressure.
  • Perform a quick release to release the pressure.  Add the shredded Fontina cheese and stir until it’s melted and creamy.  Serve immediately.

Tips For Cooking Pasta In the Instant Pot

How long does it take to cook pasta in the Instant Pot? You can cook it on MANUAL for 5 minutes. Remember that it will take about 10 minutes to reach pressure, and the 5 minutes doesn’t start until it’s at pressure. Then you can perform a Quick Release once it’s done cooking.

How to Avoid Overcooking Pasta in the Instant Pot – The key is to perform a Quick Release after the pasta has cook. If you used a Natural Release the pasta will continue to cook.

Method 2 – The Slow Cooker

This method can be used to make any type of pasta dish that in the slow cooker that uses a stock

  1. In a non-stick skillet, heat over medium heat.  Add the oil and sauté the onion and turkey until it’s nicely browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer the meat and cooked onions to your slow cooker.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except for the pasta and cheese.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  About 30 minutes before the meal is finished cooking, add the pasta.  Cook on high for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the cheese and stir until it’s completely melted.  Serve immediately.

Method 3 – The Stove Top

  1. Get a large pan of water boiling. Add the elbow macaroni (or any other pasta type you choose) to the water for around 10 minutes or until al dente.
  2. Heat your skillet to a medium high heat adding a bit of olive oil to the pan. Gently fry the onions until golden and then add the ground turkey and stir in the pan with a wooden spoon until the meat is browned.
  3. Add the salt pepper and thyme, then ketchup and mix into the meat and onions.
  4. Add the beef stock and simmer gently for around 25 minutes stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced a bit to make a
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir in the cheese or sprinkle it on top.
Ground turkey made with macaroni shell pasta in a bowl with a fork.

What To Do With Leftovers (In the unlikely event there are any!)

  • Store any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight dish for up to 3 days
  • I like to decant leftovers into personal sized containers and freeze them so I’ve always got a meal ready to go when I’m in a rush. You can keep it frozen for up to 3 months.
  • To defrost, thaw it in the fridge overnight, in a bowl of water for a couple of hours or in the microwave on defrost mode for 10 minutes.
  • To reheat, add to a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of water and stir in the pan for around 10 minutes on a medium heat. Cooked pasta and sauce tends to be a bit dry when its been in the fridge or defrosted which is why you add a bit of water to loosen it up in the pan.

More Ground Turkey Recipes

This turkey lasagna is delicious and easy to make or try my turkey spaghetti with zoodles (zucchini noodles, but you can use regular spaghetti too). These turkey stuffed shells are also so good! Here’s the full list of my ground turkey recipes.

instant pot cheesy pasta with ground turkey close up image

Ground Turkey Pasta Recipe

Dash of Herbs
When you need comfort food this delicious ground turkey pasta recipe will hit the spot. It's high in protein and full of cheesy goodness with just 332 calories per serving. Instructions included for instant pot, slow-cooker and stove top versions.
4.46 from 57 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Comfort Food
Servings 8 servings
Calories 332 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 8 oz Fontina cheese grated

Instructions
 

Instant Pot instructions:

  • Heat the olive oil on SAUTE mode with the pressure cooker’s lid off.  Place the turkey into the cooker and cook until it’s browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cheese, to the cooker.  Securely lock the lid and set on MANUAL for 6 minutes at HIGH pressure.
  • Perform a quick release to release the pressure.  Add the shredded Fontina cheese and stir until it’s melted and creamy.  Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker instructions:

  • In a non-stick skillet, heat over medium heat.  Add the oil and saute the onion and turkey until it’s cooked, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer the meat and cooked onions to your slow cooker.
  • Add the remaining ingredients except for the noodles and cheese.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  About 30 minutes before the meal is finished cooking, add the noodles.  Cook on high for 30 minutes.
  • Add the cheese and stir until it’s completely melted.  Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 332kcalCarbohydrates: 24.6gProtein: 23.3gFat: 15.8gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 74.8mgFiber: 1.1gSugar: 3.8g
Tried this recipe?Mention @dashofherbs or tag #dashofherbsrecipes!

51 Comments

  1. Absolutely! I don’t think that would change the recipe too much.

  2. Can you use whole wheat pasta in this recipe?

  3. This is great – thank you for sharing. I don’t always have Fontina cheese (or I can’t always find it at the grocery store), so adding different kinds of cheeses is awesome.

  4. 5 stars
    I made this tonight. I used chicken broth and Colby jack cheese, it turned out amazing.

  5. Thank you so much. I’m so glad that you loved it as much as we do.

  6. 5 stars
    This came out really yummy and creamy, and so quick to make since it’s done in the Instant Pot. I love that this uses Fontina cheese. Fontina is an excellent melting cheese and is what makes this dish so delicious.

  7. 5 stars
    I was happy to find this recipe and in getting ready to make it started adding and subtracting. We eat as heart-healthy as possible and we have some gluten issues. I sauteed the onions and ground turkey along with spices (no thyme so I used Italian Seasoning, garlic powder, salt & pepper). Then some jar spaghetti sauce I had in the fridge in place of the ketchup, chicken broth, and gluten free rotelli pasta (spirals). I stirred everything up, and pressure cooked it for 3 mins and natural release for 4 minutes (followed by quick release and open). Stir in any amount of cheese ( I used only a little) and serve with a veggie. It was so good; tasty and comforting. I had almost given up on gluten free pasta, but this was the best I’ve eaten; pressure cooking, especially in a flavorful sauce/liquid, is the way to go.

  8. Thank you so much for this review…and Fontina cheese is freaking amazing! So glad you loved it too.

  9. 5 stars
    Wow!! So dang good! I just got an Instant Pot ( well, a Yedi… same manufacturer but you get all the accessories, ha!)

    This is fan- freaking- tastic! I did see the other comments and added about 2.5ish cups of pasta, and actually used the BJs ground turkey which I think is 1.33 lbs… so I upped the onion and spices a tiny bit and added like 4-5 minced garlic cloves because I like to ward off the devil. ( ha! Kidding… just loooooove garlic so much),
    Consistency is perfectamundo! ( thanks Fonzie! Lol).

    I did stir in a bunch of broccoli spears ( ya know… just enough so the hubby doesn’t see them, but us gals know they’re there, lol). Just perfect. I might try to hide more veggies in there next time when nosy hubby isn’t looking.

    Oh! And never used Fontina before, but oh my holy cheese lord… where have you been my whole life???!

    <slight disclaimer… I bought the required amount of fontina… and of course had to test it. Like yummm-o. So, needless to say I filled in the bit I ate with shredded cheddar.). Ha! So, I would say any mix of cheese stirred in is just fab.

    Thank you for a great recipe!

  10. Thank you so much for the review. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  11. 5 stars
    1st time cooking this receipe. Used the pressure cooker option. Delicious. I substituted medium chunky salsa for the ketchup and added a small amount of ketchup. We do not eat beef so I substituted homemade chicken broth. I added the cheese to the bowl after I filled it with the cooked turkey and pasta. Sprinkled parmesan over it and added a dollop of sour cream. Delicious. Thank you for this recipe. Will make it again. 5 stars

  12. Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you guys both loved this recipe. My husband recently said that this recipe is his absolute favorite of all the recipes I have made. I hope you eat this again and again.

  13. I actually don’t know about the Keep Warm feature (I don’t use mine much). So I am not sure how the cheese and everything will stay in it. I would imagine it would be fine, but I don’t know for sure if it would keep creamy.

  14. 5 stars
    I made it last night and used 2.5 cups of broth (beef Better Than Bouillon) instead of 3. And I sautéed the onions for a couple minutes after the turkey was browned. It was really good – flavors reminded us of eating a turkey burger but instead of bread, macaroni! Since Better Than Bouillon contains a good amount of salt, next time I’ll leave out the extra salt and maybe add a bit more pepper. And I’ll stir in some broccoli florets at the end too. Thank you so much for this unusual recipe – my husband said he’d eat it any time!

  15. Hi – Is there a problem leaving the IP on Keep Warm after mixing in the cheese? I love the Keep Warm feature and often use it for a few hours, because that way one of us can eat early and the other later, if our schedules don’t coincide. I know the IP keeps the food at a safe temperature; I’m only asking because the recipe says to serve immediately after mixing in the cheese. Also, does the size of the macaroni matter? It comes in a few sizes and we happen to have the smaller size. Thanks!

  16. I’m so glad that you and your family loved this recipe. It’s one of my favorites as well (and my toddler loves it too).

  17. 5 stars!! Kids and wife loved it. They said we have to make this again. lol I used ground beef and it was amazing.

  18. You are so welcome! I am glad that you loved it too. Isn’t it amazing that you can eat what you want even on Weight Watchers (or a “diet”)?

  19. 5 stars
    I honestly was not expecting “diet” mac and cheese to be life-changing, but oh my GOODness, this recipe is incredible. And I can easily budget enough points to enjoy it on the regular. Thank you for sharing this!

  20. I’m glad that you liked this! It’s delicious.

  21. 4 stars
    I made it in the instant pot and it worked just like instructed. I’ve never used fontina cheese but it was really good. Im on a diet so I couldn’t eat alot but it was very quick and easy.

  22. Wonderful! I am so glad that you liked it and that it worked on the stovetop.

  23. I made it the same way as Annie above on the stovetop and WOW soooo good!! Thanks for the amazing recipe!!

  24. 5 stars
    What is the size of each serving?

  25. Hi- yes, I believe you could make this in the crockpot. I would actually add the noodles later (like 30 minutes to 1 hour before the rest of the meal is done). hen you can add the cheese after it’s all done cooking. I’m also sure cheddar would work too, but I never tried that. I always find Fontina (at my grocery store it’s where they store the fancier cheeses), but I don’t see why it would be bad. It might not be as creamy as with Fontina, but it should work fine. I’ll add the crockpot instructions in just a minute to the recipe card.

  26. Hi, there!! I want to make this cheesy turkey pasta dish, but I don’t have an instapot. Can I make it in my crockpot? I’ve never put raw noodles in my crockpot before. I was thinking I could follow you above instructions and sauté the turkey and onion with the spices. Then transfer that to my crockpot, add the beef broth, ketchup and throw the noodles in and cook on high for a couple of hours. Do you think this would work? I know not to add the cheese before serving. Also, I couldn’t find fontina cheese at my local grocery store, so I was thinking I could use my craft fat free cheddar, instead. Does this sound ok? Can you tell I really want to make this?!!! HAHA. It sounds SO good

  27. Thank you for the feedback and I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way you were hoping. I actually just remade this recipe last week and followed the directions and ingredients exactly. Mine was a little soupy when it was done, but it wasn’t a huge soupy mess. I’m a little surprised, but I’ll remake this again to see if I can recreate your feedback. Thank you again.

  28. 2 stars
    I found this recipe on pinterest and had really high hopes for it but I was really disappointed. I’m not sure the quantities of ingredients are correct or not but when mine was done cooking there was a ton of liquid in the bottom. It definitely needed more than 2 cups of pasta. Just to confirm, is it 2 cups or 16 oz because that is a big difference. Mine turned into a cheesey soup mess because the pasta was overcooked from all the extra liquid and overall it just didn’t taste good. Might try again but it needs serious tweaks to make this edible.

  29. Sure! I didn’t test how it would taste with it, but I don’t see it being a problem.

  30. Can you use cheddar cheese instead?

  31. I think that could still work. I’m not sure what it will taste like, but I do think it’s a great alternative to beef broth. Especially if that is all that you have.

  32. I only have chicken broth in my fridge at the moment, do you think that would make a difference vs beef broth?

  33. You can use dry macaroni in this recipe. The pasta will cook when it’s in the pressure cooker.

  34. 3 stars
    Do you put in wet or dry pasta?

  35. There’s no water in this recipe. But there is 3 cups of beef stock, which is listed on the recipe card.

  36. How much water do you put in the instant pot to cook the macaroni? I read it twice feeling like I missed something lol.

  37. I’m so glad you were able to make this without the Instant Pot and that it worked so well for you. This is great to know!

  38. I couldn’t figure out how to link to my comment above…but I tried this without the instant pot and it was fantastic! I basically made it exactly like you would the grocery store boxed meals: I sautéed the onions for a minute or two, added the turkey and finished those two off together. I added all seasonings, pasta and three cups broth. Once boiling, I covered and simmered until pasta was done and liquid was minimal. Then I added the cheese. Viola! Super delicious!

  39. I think that might work. As long as it all stays warm enough, I think that could be a great option to make it without an Instant Pot. I didn’t test that, but if you try it and love it, please let me know! I can add a note about what you did in the recipe for those who don’t have an IP.

  40. How would one go about making this without an instant pot? I was going to boil the pasta in the broth while sautéing the onions and turkey. Then add those two to the tender pasta and remaining broth and all other ingredients. Would that work?

  41. It doesn’t matter (as long as you don’t include the cheese). You definitely could saute the onion with the turkey if you wanted to and then add in the other ingredients. Since it all gets mixed in together, I don’t see why that would be a problem.

  42. What order do you place the ingredients in the pot after the turkey? I’d probably saute the onions with the turkey too. Thanks!

  43. The only other thing I can think of is that are you in the US? Someone in Australia had an issue with the zero point food list because one thing didn’t list as zero when it is zero points in the US. Also, make sure that you are using 99% fat free lean ground turkey breast. That’s zero points and will bring the points down. I checked the recipe against the recipe builder recipe and they are the same.

  44. I have been using the “Create Recipe” function, and have put 8 under the “Serves:” section.

  45. Are you putting in the right serving sizes? The Turkey Burger recipe should serve 8 people, which brings down the points to 8. If I could attach a picture of what pulls up for me, I would, but it’s 8. If you are using the calculator, the points would be different.

  46. 2 stars
    I have noticed on several of the recipes that the SmartPoints are incorrect. I added each ingredient listed above into the WW recipe builder and came up with 13 SmartPoints, not 8. This makes a very big difference for people on WW and their daily targets. The same issue happened with the slow cooker beef stew and the baked sweet and sour chicken. I found that these recipes are at least 4-5 points lower than the actual SmartPoints value.

    Yummy recipes, but the SmartPoints values are wildly incorrect.

  47. Thank you! I’m so glad that you loved it too…I could have eaten 2-3 more cups too…it’s so cheesy!

  48. This was super yummy!! I used Trader Joe Brown Rice Penne and it was cooked perfectly. I actually could have used more than 2 cups pasta

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