This Creamy Leftover Turkey Pasta is great for using up your Thanksgiving/ Christmas turkey. It is quick, easy, delicious AND slimming friendly too! By the way if leftover turkey is not in season this recipe works great with chicken too 🙂
You will also love my Roast Turkey Crown
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Do you guys love Christmas leftovers? I do! I am especially fond of leftover turkey as it can be used in so many different ways. This turkey pasta recipe is currently topping the charts in our house!
Wait a minute… what is orzo?
Orzo (Italian for barley which it resembles) is a type of pasta. It looks a little bit like rice but it is NOT a grain. Orzo contains gluten since it is usually made with durum wheat.
Orzo can be used in pasta salad recipes, in soups, in risotto type recipes (also called orzotto), or in pasta recipes like this creamy Tuscan past
Orzo is popular throughout the Mediterannean, especially in Italy and Greece where it is called kritharaki – Greek for barley – notice a theme here? I grew up enjoying many orzo recipes like Giouvetsi (orzo and lamb casserole).
How to cook orzo
Orzo can be cooked the same way as any pasta in boiling salted water. It can also be added to soups towards the end of the cooking time so that it doesn’t overcook.
When cooked in casseroles, one-pot pasta and risotto style dishes, orzo is first sautéed in oil or butter and then cooked in stock so it becomes lovely and creamy. It generally needs more time to cook that specified on the pack if cooked in this way.
Creamy Leftover Turkey Pasta
This recipe is probably not actually Tuscan, it was popularised by Olive Garden in the US and has graced many a blog, including this one – have you made my Tuscan Shrimp Linguine?
The recipe usually contains pasta, cream, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and Parmesan. It is DEELICIOUS and I cannot lie.
I have taken these elements from Tuscan pasta recipe and made them just a little bit healthier but no less delicious.
In my recipe the cream is replaced by half-fat creme fraiche or reduced fat sour cream. Just as creamy but slightly less calorific. Here’s what you will need to make this orzo pasta recipe:
- Olive oil or olive oil spray for a slimming friendly version. For extra flavour you can use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
- Onions and garlic
- Sun-dried tomatoes. For a slimming version you need to rinse these as they are usually stored in oil
- Garlic granules, a hint of paprika and salt
- Orzo pasta – you can also use other small pasta shapes, gluten-free if preferred
- Leftover turkey or chicken. I used turkey breast, diced small
- Chicken stock (from a cube)
- Crème fraîche (full or reduced fat), reduced fat sour cream or fat-free quark cheese. You can also use double (heavy) cream if preferred
- Fresh spinach
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
How to make Leftover Turkey Pasta
Take a look at this step by step tutorial – please note you will find the full recipe, including ingredients in the recipe card at the end of this post.
STEP 1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Heat a tablespoon of oil (from the sun-dried tomatoes jar for extra flavour!) in a large casserole dish or Dutch oven. Use olive oil spray such as Fry Light for a slimming version.
STEP 2. Add the onion and stir to coat in the oil. Cover the pot and cook the onion over very low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onion to soften but not colour.
STEP 3. Stir in the minced garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, salt, garlic granules and paprika. Sauté for a few minutes.
STEP 4. If the pan is getting a bit dry you can deglaze it with a splash of white wine/ vermouth (or chicken stock).
STEP 5. Add the orzo pasta and stir to toast in the oil and seasonings.
STEP 6. Stir in the diced turkey (or chicken).
STEP 7. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan (orzo has a tendency to stick).
STEP 8. Add the creme fraiche (or sour cream) and stir to combine.
STEP 8. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway.
STEP 9. Uncover the pot and use a wooden spoon to give it a good stir. The orzo should be cooked and the dish creamy and delicious. Add handfuls of fresh spinach, stirring into the creamy orzo until it wilts.
STEP 11. Grate some fresh Parmesan over the dish, check the seasoning and serve. SOOOO YUMMY!
Recipe Tips and FAQs
– Do I have to cook this recipe (partly) in the oven? Actually no, you CAN cook this entirely on the hob but you will need to stir it more often. Check the recipe card notes below.
– Do I have to stir the spinach in at the end? You can add the spinach in before you transfer to the oven however it won’t retain its bright green colour. You can also add cubes of frozen spinach in with step 6 if you like.
– Can I use fresh chicken (or turkey)? Absolutely you can! I like to use diced chicken tenders (mini chicken breasts) as they cook quickly. Add these in with the onions, after the onion has cooked for 10 minutes so it is nice and soft. Cook for a further 5 minutes until coloured but not cooked all the way through. Continue cooking the recipe as in main method.
– Is this recipe REALLY slimming friendly? It really is! If you want it to be really low in calories you can replace the crème fraîche /sour cream with fat-free Quark cheese. Make sure you serve your pasta with extra veggies – I like to add chopped cherry tomatoes and a side of crisp salad leaves.
You might want to cook this in a non-stick casserole (Dutch Oven) to minimise sticking and use of oil. One serving is around 450 calories and 14 WeightWatchers Smart Points. Take a look at all my other slimming eats!
– Can I reheat this recipe? Yes you can – add a little water if needed when reheating and make sure it is hot all the way through before serving.
– Can I freeze this orzo pasta recipe? Pasta doesn’t freeze well and this is so delicious you will want to polish it all off at once.
You will also love…
One-pot Leftover Turkey Orzo Pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil or olive oil spray for a slimming friendly version
- 1 onion , finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 55 g | ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes , rinsed for slimming version
- 1 tsp garlic granules
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 150 g | 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- 300 g | 10½ oz leftover cooked turkey or chicken , diced small
- 2 tbsp white wine or stock to deglaze pan, optional
- 500 ml | 2 cups hot chicken stock (from a cube)
- 240 g | 1 cup half fat creme faiche or reduced fat sour cream or fat-free quark cheese
- 60 g | 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
- Lemon zest , to garnish (optional)
- Salt and pepper to season to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Heat a tablespoon of oil (from the sun-dried tomatoes jar for extra flavour) in a large casserole dish or Dutch oven. Use olive oil spray for a slimming version.
- Add the onion and stir to coat in the oil. Cover the pot and cook the onion over very low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onion to soften but not colour.
- Stir in the minced garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, salt, garlic granules and paprika. Sauté for a few minutes.
- If the pan is getting a bit dry you can deglaze it with a splash of white wine (or vermouth / chicken stock) but that is optional.
- Add the orzo pasta and stir to toast in the oil and seasonings.
- Stir in the diced turkey (or chicken).
- Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan (orzo has a tendency to stick).
- Add the creme fraiche (or sour cream) and stir to combine.
- Cover the pot and transfer to the oven (look in recipe notes if you want to cook on the hob) and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway.
- Uncover the pot and use a wooden spoon to give it a good stir. The orzo should be cooked and the dish creamy and delicious.
- Add handfuls of fresh spinach, stirring into the creamy orzo until it wilts.
- Add the grated Parmesan and check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!
Follow steps 1-6 then continue to cook on the stove over low heat, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes or until the orzo is cooked. Stir in the spinach and serve as main method.