Cheesy Turkey (or Bean) Chili with Kale & Pastina


Chili is a perfect clean out the fridge meal.  I was staring down some ground turkey and sad looking kale wondering if I should try to force kale turkey burgers on my crew when inspiration struck.  Well, it was more practicality. I also had a few leftover tomato products (1/2 jar whole tomatoes and an opened tomato sauce) that needed some attention.  Viola! A happy marriage was made amongst all these guys – with cheese as the ties that bind them – and I had one of our easiest, all in one, go-to dishes.


It also helped that spring disappeared for a few days here in Brooklyn and I felt the need to cram in one more batch of chili before it felt wholly inappropriate to force chili upon the family in the (hopefully coming back soon) delightful warm spring weather.

We lived in Washington DC b/k (before kids) and they had this restaurant chain there, Hard Time Cafe – all chili, all sorts of ways.  Ever since then, it has been impossible to serve up chili without cheese and pasta. I usually use elbow macaroni, but in a fit of over caffeinated mommy organizing this same day, I uncovered 2 boxes of pastina – tiny star pasta.  No idea why I stockpiled this stuff, but it ended up a perfect addition to the dish.  If you use a large pasta, perhaps add a bit more water then I did (start with 1/4 cup more if you use elbow macaroni for example). IMG_8552

Cheesy Turkey (or bean) Chili with Kale & Pastini
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 head kale, large ribs removed, finely sliced
  • 3 cups of tomato product – whatever you have – I used 2 cups jarred tomato sauce and a cup of leftover whole jarred tomatoes. Crushed, chopped, sauce – anything will get the job done. Try to use BPA free product.
  • 1 can (BPA free) pinto beans, drained
  • 1 lb ground turkey (if want to make vegetarian, substitute another can of beans)
  • 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon of chili powder – since giving to kids I used 1/2 TBS, but feel free to add more.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • salt and pepper for cooking process
  • 1/2 cup pastina (or other small pasta)
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (low fat or regular)
  • 3 Tablespoons low fat cream cheese
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat – add onion and saute until soft. Add ground turkey (or beans if you want veggie), salt, chili, and cumin and stir until pink in turkey is gone. Add kale and stir for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Add tomatoes, pinto beans and simmer for about 10 minutes to meld all the flavors together.
  2. Add in pasta and water and keep at low simmer until pasta is tender. Turn off heat and stir in cheese and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper – probably at the least needs another dose of salt.


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