turkey bolognese Recipe

The Ultimate Guide to Making Turkey Bolognese: A Healthier Twist on a Classic

Turkey Bolognese offers a lighter, healthier alternative to traditional Bolognese sauce, perfect for those looking to enjoy classic flavors without the guilt. This dish combines ground turkey with a rich tomato base and aromatic herbs, offering a comforting meal that’s both delicious and nutritious.

Why Choose Turkey Bolognese?

  • Health Benefits: Ground turkey is leaner than most red meats, making Turkey Bolognese a heart-healthy option.
  • Flavorful and Filling: Despite being a healthier option, it doesn’t skimp on flavor.
  • Versatility: It can be served in various ways, ensuring it fits into any meal plan.

For a delightful end to your meal, explore unique dessert options like Earl Grey Cookies.

Understanding Bolognese

  • What Makes Bolognese Different Than Spaghetti? The main difference lies in the sauce. Bolognese is a thick, meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy, characterized by its slow-cooked, simmered richness, often including a small amount of tomato, celery, carrot, and onion. Spaghetti, on the other hand, refers to the type of pasta and is often served with a variety of sauces, not necessarily meat-based.
  • What Distinguishes Italian Bolognese from American Bolognese? The key difference between Italian Bolognese and American Bolognese lies in the preparation and ingredients. Italian Bolognese focuses on a more authentic, slow-cooked method with fewer tomatoes and a finer cut of meat, often incorporating milk or cream. American Bolognese tends to be tomato-heavy, quicker to prepare, and uses a broader range of meats and spices.

Should I Put Butter in My Bolognese?

Incorporating butter into your Bolognese sauce can transform the dish, offering several benefits:

  • Richness: Butter adds a creamy texture and a rich, luxurious mouthfeel to the sauce.
  • Flavor: It introduces a layer of flavor that complements the savory taste of the turkey and the freshness of the herbs.
  • Gloss: A touch of butter can give the sauce an appealing glossy finish, making your Bolognese visually more enticing.

A small amount of butter can make a significant difference, enhancing the sauce without overwhelming the other flavors.

Why Add Milk to Bolognese?

Adding milk to Bolognese sauce might seem unusual, but it’s a traditional step with several purposes:

  • Tenderness: Milk proteins help tenderize the meat, ensuring your Turkey Bolognese is wonderfully soft and easy to eat.
  • Richness: It adds a creamy richness to the sauce, balancing the acidity of the tomatoes and wine.
  • Depth of Flavor: Milk contributes to the complex layering of flavors, marrying the savory elements with a hint of sweetness.

The addition of milk creates a more rounded and indulgent sauce, elevating the Turkey Bolognese to new culinary heights.

For those looking for the perfect side, our Perfectly Crispy Air Fryer Roast Potatoes Recipe pairs wonderfully with Turkey Bolognese.

The Best Cut of Meat for Bolognese

  • What Cut of Meat is Best for Bolognese? Traditionally, Bolognese sauce is made with a finer cut of meat, such as pork shoulder or beef chuck, which are rich in flavor and tenderize well during the slow cooking process. For a healthier twist like Turkey Bolognese, ground turkey serves as an excellent substitute, maintaining the dish’s heartiness while reducing fat content.

How long should a bolognese simmer for?

The simmering time for a Bolognese sauce is crucial to its flavor development and texture. Traditionally, a Bolognese sauce should simmer for at least 2 to 3 hours on low heat. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, the meat to become tender, and the sauce to achieve a rich, complex taste.

However, if you’re making a Turkey Bolognese, which uses ground turkey as a leaner alternative to beef or pork, the simmering time might be slightly shorter. Ground turkey tends to cook faster and doesn’t require as much time to break down and tenderize. For a Turkey Bolognese, aiming for at least 1 to 1.5 hours of simmering on low heat should suffice to develop a deep flavor and ensure the sauce is thoroughly cooked.

Remember, the key to a great Bolognese is patience; allowing your sauce to simmer gently will reward you with a delicious and hearty meal.

Essential Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can of pureed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of milk or half & half


  1. Pulse the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and basil in a food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and cook until soft.
  3. Add the ground turkey, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until browned.
  4. Pour in the vermouth, increase the heat, and cook until the alcohol has evaporated.
  5. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for at least 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. Mix in the milk or half & half and simmer for a few more minutes.
  8. Serve over your choice of pasta, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

Incorporate any leftovers into a delightful breakfast with a Heavenly Southern Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich.


  • Can I freeze Turkey Bolognese? Yes, it freezes well for up to 3 months.
  • How can I make this dish vegetarian? Substitute the turkey with lentils or a plant-based ground meat alternative.
  • What are the best herbs to use in Turkey Bolognese? Basil and parsley are traditional, but feel free to experiment with thyme or oregano for different flavor profiles.


Turkey Bolognese is a testament to the joy of cooking and eating well. It’s a dish that brings comfort, nutrition, and a touch of culinary creativity to your table.

Begin your meal with a light and flavorful starter like Wonton Soup, and consider ending on a sweet note with our Pumpkin Banana Loaf.

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