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Sometimes, a lady needs to cheat. For example, when she is making turkey bolognese sauce. Turkey Bolognese is an easy and healthy pasta sauce recipe. The thick, rich sauce tastes like it’s been simmering all day, but it’s ready in 45 minutes. It’s delicious and perfect for a weeknight dinner!

Plate of pasta with turkey bolognese sauce

What this lady should do to make proper, non-cheating Turkey Bolognese:

  • Painstakingly chop all vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, garlic).
  • Simmer the sauce on the stove for a minimum of two hours, all day if you are going for bonafide nonna status.
  • Make the pasta from scratch.
  • Use heavy cream.
  • Use some wine in the sauce. Drink the rest with dinner.

Oh, and she probably shouldn’t be using turkey.

What this lady actually did:

  • Leave the veggies chunky and declare them “rustic.” Because it’s so much faster.
  • Ditch the celery. Because one less veggie to chop.
  • Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, then taste it to see if it’s “close enough.” (Spoiler, it’s delicious!)
  • Use high-quality, premade refrigerated pasta instead of making from-scratch pasta (more on that in a moment).
  • Use wine in the sauce. Drink more wine while making pasta. Open a new bottle to serve with dinner if necessary. Because cook’s prerogative.
  • Use regular milk instead of heavy cream and ground turkey instead of beef to make the bolognese healthy. Because more room for dessert!
saute pan filled with turkey bolognese sauce

You can call it “cheating,” “experimentation,” or “this is what was in my pantry, so let’s go with it.”

Regardless of how you decide to describe it, adapting classic recipes is, for me, what keeps cooking exciting and seasonal. In the case of Turkey Bolognese, adapting makes it achievable on a weeknight.

Healthy Turkey Bolognese — Tips for Fast Bolognese Sauce

Classic bolognese sauce usually takes hours to prepare and can be on the heavy side. My goal to transform it into a lighter but still comforting healthy Turkey Bolognese recipe that’s ready in 45 minutes, while a little tricky, turned out to be even more delicious than I’d dreamed!

I swapped the traditional ground beef for ground turkey, adding extra seasoning to keep it from tasting bland. The heavy cream I ditched in favor of whole milk, which still yielded a sauce that tasted thick and decadent.

The trickiest part was figuring out a way to make the bolognese sauce taste as if it had been simmering for hours instead of minutes. Tomato paste, which has an intense flavor, along with a bold red wine did the trick (just as they enrich the sauce in my Red Wine Braised Short Ribs!).

Pan of healthy turkey bolognese sauce

Turkey Bolognese – Freezer Friendly Pasta Sauce

This recipe makes a generous amount of the turkey bolognese sauce. The leftovers freeze easily, so you can enjoy them at a later date or simply cook a bit of extra pasta to suit the size of your crowd.

  • To Freeze. Place leftover sauce in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Healthy Turkey Bolognese. Quick, easy, and tastes authentic! Recipe at wellplated.com

Turkey Bolognese

4.58 from 45 votes
Quick and easy healthy Turkey Bolognese. The thick, rich sauce tastes like it’s been simmering all day but is ready in minutes. Great for weeknight dinner!

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 45 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots peeled and finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey I use 93% lean; I wouldn’t recommend 99% lean, as it will easily dry out, or ground chicken
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon (or substitute an additional 14.5-ounce can of crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 10 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccini pasta
  • For serving: freshly grated parmesan chopped fresh basil, and/or chopped fresh parsley

Instructions
 

  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the carrot, onion, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high, add the ground turkey, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it’s starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Pour the wine into the skillet and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and milk and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add additional salt, black pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle or Fettuccine just until al dente. Drain and place in a serving bowl. Top with your desired amount of sauce and serve hot, sprinkled with fresh Parmesan, basil, and/or parsley.

Notes

  • I recommend topping the noodles with the Bolognese sauce just before serving. Leftover sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for 3 months. This recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, so depending upon your preferred noodle/sauce ratio, you may have some sauce leftover. If this is the case, I recommend enjoying it over a fresh batch of noodles, since refrigerated pasta usually tastes at its prime right after it is made. That said, we also at it rewarmed in the microwave (including the noodles), and it still made for a delicious dinner.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25of the noodles with 1 cup sauceCalories: 341kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 22gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 319mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

Learn more about Erin

4.58 from 45 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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101 Comments

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  1. Easy to follow recipe and very tasty my son has second, will make it again and may try a soy mince one to5 stars

  2. This was delicious. I did make a few adjustments to make it less points for WW: added celery, halved the red wine, halved the milk and went with 2%, did half and half 99% lean and 93% lean ground turkey, doubled the fresh garlic and threw in a handful of parsley. I chopped all of the veggies in my food processor, so adding the celery did not add any time. ;) Great recipe – and both my teens loved it too!5 stars

  3. Absolutely delicious. I added diced mushrooms and celery because I was cleaning out my fridge. I will make this again and again – thank you!5 stars

  4. This is the first review I have ever given and I was compelled to as this was the worst recipe I have ever eaten. In fact I couldn’t finish my serving. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

    1. I’m sorry this recipe wasn’t to your tastes, Teresa. I (and many other readers) have truly enjoyed it, so I wish you would’ve too!

  5. Love this recipe! It’s simple to make and I like the healthier turkey aspect. It freezes and reheats well, too. This has become one of my go-to dinners to cook!5 stars

  6. Hi!!
    Absolutely delicious! Nothing left in the pot to freeze! This is now my go-to recipe for Bolognese! Thank you so much….. looking forward to trying your other recipes 😁5 stars

  7. I’ve always made beef bolognese with heavy cream, which is simply decadent, however this recipe is tough competition. I omitted both the milk and wine (added another can of tomatoes) and my kids finished this in one serving. I actually made a double batch a few days later. I’m bookmarking this and it will be on my regular rotation of dinners.5 stars

  8. Hi Erin, usually I love your recipes. This one turned out very bland and non-flavorful. I made a double batch so I could freeze half of it and we went ahead and through for the other half away.1 star

    1. I’m sorry to hear that it wasn’t to your taste Julie. The recipe has worked well for myself (and others) but I know how frustrating it can be to try a new recipe and not have it work out, so I really wish you would’ve enjoyed it!

  9. I had two other “quick” bolognese recipes that I had been using for years. Just threw them out! This is truly easy and delicious. And doesn’t taste “healthy”. Thanks Erin!!5 stars

  10. I substituted the red wine for the 14.5 oz of crushed tomatoes but other than that I followed the recipe pretty much to a T. Unfortunately, my bolognese did not come out very delicious. I found that the sauce needed to be simmered and sit for a couple hours before serving. The turkey tasted unseasoned and felt that it still tasted a bit bland. I might have to try this original recipe with red wine again but one thing I would definitely change is to incorporate the salt in the turkey than just the vegetables.2 stars

    1. I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste, Jane. I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not enjoy it. I (and many other readers) have enjoyed it, so I really wish they would’ve been a hit for you too!

  11. I rarely do reviews, but I must leave a review because this Turkey Bolognese was delicious! Best recipe! It was easy to prepare. I doubled everything and it turned out terrific! My guests were raving about the sauce – how flavorful and hearty! It was a hit! Thank you!5 stars

  12. I’ve made this recipe many times and just love it! I don’t like carrots so I eliminate those. I also use a vegan milk that is more heart healthy for me. The organic ground turkey also works great as it don’t eat red meat.
    When I am going to have this sauce I use an entire package of fresh spinach and fresh mushrooms when heating it up.
    This sauce also freezes very well, so it’s a great option to just pull out of the freezer when a dinner option is needed.
    Just love the flavors!!5 stars

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