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Leftover Turkey Pasta

October 5, 2020 by Chris Collins

This pasta is the most delicious and stress free way to use up leftover turkey. It’s quick, easy and only uses 5 main ingredients!

It’s a too common scenario when you’re left staring at the leftover turkey wondering if you can face another bite. It takes a good old spruce up to revive leftover turkey, but you really can’t go wrong when you throw it in a simple pesto pasta. Follow me..

silver fork digging into pasta on white plate with basil and pine nuts blurred in background

Leftover Turkey Pasta

This dish is based on cupboard/fridge staples for me and hopefully they’re familiar faces for you too! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Leftover Turkey – I usually aim for the breast, but any cut of the turkey will do.
  • Pasta – Anything you’ve got on hand, short or long cut both work great.
  • Pesto – Here I use Basil Pesto. Homemade is best of course!
  • Bacon – Must I really justify this one? 😂
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes – These bring everything together and add that little ‘something something’. Highly recommend adding them.

Can I use leftover chicken instead?

Yup! This recipe works great with chicken too. You can even use leftover ham (just leave out the bacon).

Because the turkey is already cooked and the sun dried tomatoes just need warming through, once you’ve fried the bacon I recommend popping them in the pan just to heat up.

Process shots: add bacon to drizzle of oil (photo 1), fry until crisp then stir in tomatoes/turkey (photo 2).

2 step by step photos showing how to fry turkey, bacon and sun dried tomatoes

Starchy Pasta Water

One of the most crucial steps when making pesto pasta, and actually most pasta dishes in general, is utilizing the water the pasta is cooked in. If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while you’ll have seen me bang on about this relentlessly 😂

Have you ever made pesto pasta and it just turns out dry and greasy? Yep, we’ve all been there! Pesto is quite oil-heavy, so by tossing through a few splashes of starchy pasta water you help emulsify those oils and create a juicy sauce.

Scoop just before draining!

You’ll want to collect the water JUST before you drain the pasta. This is for two reasons:

  • Heat – If you scoop it after you’ve just added the pasta, by the time the pasta cooks the water you collect will be lukewarm and lower the temp of the pasta when served.
  • Starch – The water will be at its starchiest towards the end of the pasta cooking. The more starch, the ‘creamier’ the sauce and the better it emulsifies with the oil.

It’s also important to make sure you heavily season the pasta water, just so it doesn’t dilute the flavour of the pesto too much.

grey mug scooping into boiling pasta to collect water

How to make Leftover Turkey Pesto Pasta

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when making pesto pasta is to combine everything in a pan over heat. This will not only split the pesto and cause the pasta to go greasy, but it’ll also burn the basil and cause it to go a dark muddy colour.

When making pesto pasta you want to make it OFF heat in a mixing bowl.

The leftover heat from the pasta and pasta water will keep everything nice and toasty.

Can I make this ahead of time?

You can, it just depends on how long the turkey has been leftover for. Just tightly cover in the fridge and bring to room temp when ready to eat. Don’t reheat or burnt basil & greasy pasta will greet you on the other side.

Can I use other pestos?

Sure! Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Broccoli Pesto, Chive & Parsley Pesto and Roasted Red Pepper Pesto all work great!

Process shots: add pesto, pasta and splash of pasta water in a bowl (photo 1), combine then add bacon, sun dried tomato and turkey (photo 2), mix and thin out with pasta water as needed (photo 3).

3 step by step photos showing how to make leftover turkey pasta

Serving Leftover Turkey Pasta

From there you can serve it as it is, or with a truck load of parmesan. Up to you 😁

If you’re looking for another delicious leftovers recipe check out my Leftover Chicken & Bacon Pasta!

For more similar recipes check out these beauties too:

Leftover Turkey Recipes

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this leftover turkey pasta shall we?!

overhead shot of pasta on white plate surrounded by ingredients for garnish

How to make Leftover Turkey Pasta (Full Recipe & Video)

silver fork digging into pasta on white plate with basil and pine nuts blurred in background

Leftover Turkey Pasta

This pasta is the most delicious and stress free way to use up leftover turkey. It's quick, easy and only uses 5 main ingredients!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings (click & slide): 2
Course: Leftovers / Lunch
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Calories per serving: 912kcal
Cost per serving: £2.50 / $3


  • Small Frying Pan & Wooden Spoon
  • Medium Pot & Colander
  • Medium Sized Mixing Bowl & Spatula
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Fine Cheese Grater

Ingredients (check list):

  • 7oz / 200g Pasta of Choice
  • 1 cup / 125g Leftover Turkey, chopped into small bite sized pieces (can sub chicken)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup / 80-120g Pesto (see notes)
  • 6 Sun Dried Tomatoes, finely diced
  • 4 slices of Bacon, finely diced
  • dash of Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper, as needed
  • Parmesan, to serve


  • Pop pasta in salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of starchy pasta water just before draining.
  • Meanwhile add bacon to a dash of oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry until it begins to brown/crisp then add in sun dried tomatoes and leftover turkey. Fry for a couple of minutes to heat through then remove from heat.
  • Add drained pasta to a mixing bowl. Add pesto and a splash of starchy pasta water then give it a good stir. Mix in bacon/sun dried tomato/turkey and keep stirring until the pesto coats the pasta, using your starchy pasta water to thin out as needed. Season with a pinch of black pepper.
  • Serve with a good grating of parmesan and enjoy!

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Can I use different Pestos? - Sure! Here I use basil pesto, but for inspiration check out my full range:
b) Starchy Pasta Water - Important to season the water with a hefty pinch of salt, just so you don't dilute the flavour. Also important to scoop the water out JUST before draining the pasta to ensure a) it's still hot and b) it's nice and starchy. 
c) Perfect Consistency - You don't want the pasta swimming in sauce, pesto should just cling to the pasta nicely without drowning it. Only start with a splash of pasta water and increase little by little as needed. Much easier to add more than take it out! The starchy water helps emulsify the oils in the pasta and create a thin sauce.
d) Storage - Tightly cover in the fridge (length of time dependent on how old your turkey is). Bring back to room temp to eat. Don't reheat or you'll burn the basil in the pesto and cause the sauce to greasy.
e) Calories - based on using 1 tsp olive oil for frying bacon, 1/3 cups pesto, no parmesan and shared between 2.

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Leftover Turkey Pasta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 912 Calories from Fat 438
% Daily Value*
Fat 48.68g75%
Saturated Fat 4.772g24%
Trans Fat 0.016g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5.576g
Monounsaturated Fat 15.988g
Cholesterol 57mg19%
Sodium 693mg29%
Potassium 989mg28%
Carbohydrates 84.08g28%
Fiber 12g48%
Sugar 3.02g3%
Protein 37.59g75%
Vitamin A 672IU13%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 115mg12%
Iron 2.9mg16%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart
Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

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Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    November 30, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    5 stars
    SUch an awesome way to use up leftovers from turkey dinner!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    5 stars
    This is exactly how I want to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers – without a trace of that “thanksgiving taste”! Love how you repurposed them in a totally different way! Plus, who can say no to pasta?!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    5 stars
    What a super-easy way to use up leftover roast turkey! This will become a firm family favourite in our house, I think!

  • Reply
    Danielle Wolter
    November 30, 2020 at 11:24 am

    5 stars
    So delicious! This was an awesome recipe to use leftover turkey – certainly better than a sandwich!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2020 at 10:52 am

    5 stars
    My family love anything with pesto! Will need to tweak this slightly to fit our dietary requirements, but it sounds great, especially with the sun dried tomatoes. Yum!