This delicious turkey bolognese is super easy to prepare and perfect to freeze ahead of time for a quick pasta dish. Even better, I am going to show you how to make it two different ways!
I like to call this turkey bolognese sauce my “lazy Sunday sauce” recipe. I put it together one day on accident because I didn’t feel like making meatballs or taking the steps to put together my typical Sunday sauce.
Instead of making my turkey meatballs, I cooked up the Italian sausage and ground turkey and then mixed it in with the rest of the sauce ingredients. This created a rich meaty sauce that everyone loved!
Traditional Bolognese vs. My Version of Bolognese
A traditional bolognese is typically more meat than sauce and has a little cream added to it. So, this isn’t really an authentic sauce but more my version of a lightened up bolognese using ground turkey and turkey Italian sausage.
Regardless, it’s one of my favorite Italian sauce recipes and I’m confident that everyone you serve this too will lick their plate clean!
I know using ground turkey and turkey Italian sausage in a sauce recipe might seem a little weird especially if you’re a big Italian sauce fan. Trust me; when I tell people I use turkey over beef for this meat sauce or for when I make meatballs, some of them don’t believe it can ever taste as good as using meat.
However, I’ve turned many skeptics!
I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve tried this turkey bolognese sauce and asked me for the recipe afterward. The same thing happens with my turkey meatballs. So, don’t be afraid to lighten up your sauce recipes with ground turkey!
Tips On How To Make The Best Ground Turkey Bolognese
After years of making this sauce (and many versions of it), here are a couple of tips to get the best flavor using ground turkey in bolognese sauce!
Use high-quality ground turkey. I know I say this with all of my turkey (and meat) recipes but high-quality meat makes such a difference in taste and texture. I like to use organic ground turkey from Whole Foods or Wegmans!
Use Worcestershire sauce. Honestly, this is the secret ingredient in all my ground turkey recipes. This adds a rich meaty flavor to the turkey.
Season the turkey before adding seasoning to the sauce. Turkey alone will have a bland flavor. As the ground turkey cooks, you want to add all of the seasonings so it infuses into the meat.
Add in turkey or chicken Italian sausage. This adds another layer of flavor to the meat without adding in a lot of fat. Using ground turkey and sausage is my preferred way to make bolognese sauce! However, you can just use ground turkey if you want. Don’t forget to add 2lbs of ground turkey and double the seasonings.
Be patient. My nonna taught me that any sauce recipe will get better with time. So, plan to let this bolognese sauce cook for at least 1 hour but preferable 2-3 hours on the stove. Trust me, it’s worth it! Also, if you can let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, that’s even better.
Healthy Stovetop Turkey Bolognese
Now it’s time to do some of that prep work I just mentioned. Here’s a list of ingredients you will need to make this Italian turkey bolognese sauce for dinner:
- Italian poultry sausage links (casings removed)
- Ground turkey
- Tomato paste
- Crushed tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
- White onion
- Garlic cloves
- Worcestershire sauce
- Olive oil
- Red wine
These are some of the herbs and seasonings you will need to take this sauce to the next level:
- Italian seasoning
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
How To Make Turkey Bolognese On The Stovetop
Start with heating up olive oil and cooking the Italian poultry sausage. You’re going to use about 1lb of sausage which equals to about 4-5 links. If you use a little more or less it won’t make or break the recipe 😉
Remove the sausage casings and then break up the sausage as it cooks. After it’s no longer pink, remove it from the heat and place into a bowl.
Using the same pot you just used for the sausage, cook the ground turkey and break it up into small pieces as it cooks. After it’s cooked for about 3 minutes and still a little pink, add in the Worcestershire sauce and spices. Cook the ground turkey until it’s no longer pink and then add it to the same bowl as the sausage.
Next, using the same pot (just think of all the great flavors that are at the bottom of that pot!), cook the onion in some olive oil. Once they are translucent, add in the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes and stir in the seasonings. I like to add the seasoning to the onions and garlic because the heat helps to bloom the seasonings and create more flavor.
Pour in a 1/2 cup of red wine. The wine adds such a rich delicious flavor to this sauce but if you don’t have wine just use chicken or beef broth. However, if you can use wine then do it. Cook the wine for about 3-4 minutes or until it’s reduced by half. Stir in the tomato paste until it’s blended it.
Time To Add Everything To The Pot
Now, add back in the turkey and sausage to the mixture in the pot. Slowly stir in the canned tomatoes and cover it with the lid.
Like I said earlier, traditional bolognese is more meat than sauce. However, I like a nice balance between sauce and meat so I used 1 (28-ounce) can of tomato sauce and 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes.
I let this sauce cook for about 3 hours and stirred it occasionally. You’ll know it’s ready when you see a thick, rich, deep red sauce and all of the meat is very tender. Most likely, it’ll be done at 2 hours but if you can go another hour then that’s even better.
What To Serve With Turkey Bolognese Sauce
This turkey bolognese is so good with anything and everything. It’s delicious simply served over pasta (my husband loves angel hair and I love rigatoni). It also an amazing sauce to use with lasagna or baked ziti.
In fact, using this in a baked ziti is one of my favorite ways to use this sauce!
How To Freeze This Italian Bolognese Sauce
Another reason why I love this Italian sauce recipe is that it freezes beautifully. So, whether you have leftovers or just trying to stock your freezer, then this is the perfect freezer recipe.
You can freeze this in a couple of different ways.
- Freeze the sauce into portions using masons jars, plastic containers, or plastic bags. I like to freeze into 2-3 cup portions because that’s typically the amount I use when eating with pasta or using in a recipe like a lasagna or ziti.
- Freeze it as part of a recipe. For example, you can make a lasagna or baked ziti casserole as a freezer meal to use later.
Something to Consider When Freezing in Glass Containers
You need to leave at least an inch from the top when filling up with a sauce to allow room for expansion. Also, you’ll need to completely thaw the sauce before using it because it’s near impossible to get frozen sauce out of a mason jar. Using a plastic bag or container, you can pop it right out. So, just something to consider.
Can I Make This Italian Sauce In The Slow Cooker?
Yes, you can!
Even though I prefer to make all my sauce recipes on the stovetop, you can also make this in the Slow Cooker if you can’t (or don’t want to) keep an eye on it all day. Plus, since I want to leave it on cooking for a few hours, I can just set my timer and walk away!
I do recommend doing a little prep work before. I know we all want a dump and go slow cooker recipe but I’ve learned that a few extra minutes of prep can result in a much tastier slow cooker recipe.
How To Make Turkey Bolognese In The Slow Cooker
Cook the sausage and ground turkey in a 5 1/2 – 6 qt pot and break it up into small pieces while it cooks. Place it in the slow cooker.
Season the turkey with Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Browning the meats brings out a lot of flavors that you wouldn’t get just from putting directly it raw into the slow cooker.
In the same pot, cook the onions and garlic. Add the wine and cook down for about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste until it’s blended in. I always do this when adding tomato paste to a slow cooker recipe. If not, I’ll end up with a big glob of tomato paste instead of it nicely blended into the other ingredients.
Add everything you just cooked into the slow cooker.
Add in the rest of the ingredients (minus the water) and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or on low for 6 – 8 hours.
When adapting recipes for the slow cooker, you want to reduce the amount of liquid used because it doesn’t evaporate when cooking.
More Italian Dinner Recipes
Now that you know how to make this “finger-licking good” turkey bolognese sauce, here are a couple of more Italian-flavored recipes to make while you are it:
- Turkey Zucchini Meatballs
- Healthy Chicken Parmesan
- Zucchini Lasagna with Ricotta and Noodles
- Pasta Fagioli (Copycat Olive Garden Recipe)
- Italian Grilled Chicken
- 3 tablespoons Olive oil
- 1lb Italian poultry sausage links, casings removed
- 1lb ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 (6 ounce) tomato paste
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 cup water
- In a large ( 5½ - 6 qt) sauce pot heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the Italian poultry links, breaking into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink and then place into a medium bowl.
- Using the same pot heat up another tablespoon of oil and cook the ground turkey. Again, break up the turkey as it cooks. After about 4 minutes stir in the Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until no longer pink. Remove from pan and place in the bowl with sausage.
- In the same pot, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the chopped onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste until blended.
- Stir back in the turkey and sausage then stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and water.
- Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours on low, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with pasta or your favorite Italian dish.
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