Up until a few weeks ago, all the dinner parties I have thrown in the past six months have been vegetarian. I don’t think anyone noticed — I picked foods that non-vegetarians eat (quiche, risotto, pizza), and the parties were mostly attended by girls, who raise less of a fuss when served a veggie-centric meal. But I figured this could only go on for so long. Since I don’t choose friends based on their vegetarian status, I can only inflict my tastes on them so many times.
And then fate stepped in to help me out. I was getting dressed for a party sometime around New Year’s, and I happened to turn on the Food Network. There was Giada, cooking up a beautiful lamb ragout, to serve on top of mounds of delicious rigatoni. Suddenly, I knew what I was making for my next dinner party (except I changed it quite a bit).
I really liked this dish, not just because I’m a protein-deficient vegetarian. It wasn’t too heavy, thanks to the crucial step of draining off most of the turkey fat before adding the marinara sauce. I liked the sauce extra-thick, but you could reserve a little of the pasta water if you want to thin it out a bit. I made the sauce a day early to let the flavors come together, which I think made a big difference, but you could do it the same day if time is an issue.
Turkey Ragout with Rigatoni
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
8 cups marinara sauce 
1/2 cup red wine
2 boxes rigatoni
1. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil, gralic, ground turkey, salt, pepper and rosemary, breaking up the meat into small clumps. Cook until turkey is no longer pink (break up any larger clumps to make sure there is no pink inside).
2. Pour turkey into a strainer, and discard all but 2 tbsp of fat. Return drained turkey to the saute pan. Mix in marinara sauce and simmer about 10 min on low heat.
3. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate overnight, if desired. If not, continue to step 4.
4. In a large stock pot, heat about 2-3 quarts of water. Salt copiously. Return tomato/turkey sauce to saute pan, add 1/2 cup of wine, and heat through. If sauce is heated before pasta is ready, place on heat as low as possible until pasta is prepared.
5. When the water is boiling, add rigatoni and cook 14 minutes, or as directed on the pasta box.
6. When pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and spoon it into bowls. Add a ladle (1 cup or so) of sauce to each bowl. Serve.