This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

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

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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

Create an account to easily save your favorite recipes and access FREE meal plans.

Sign Me Up

Did you try this recipe?

I want to see!

Follow @wellplated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

You May Also Like

Free Email Series
Sign Up for FREE Weekly Meal Plans
Each includes a grocery list, budget, and 5 healthy dinners, helping you save time, save money, and live better!

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 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

Leave a Comment

Did you make this recipe?

Don't forget to leave a review!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


Leave a comment

  1. This looks like exactly my kinda dinner! I love bolognese but have never made it at home, in large part because of the significant time investment. I’m looking forward to trying this!

  2. This is going to happen this weekend. Last week i made a glorious pot of turkey chili with butternut squash, so good, seasonings are trght on. Thank you so much for creating delicious, simple, craveable recipes that my family and I love!

  3. Made this last night and loved it! My son who is 2 also loved it. I did use heavy whipping cream because it was in my fridge by accident. Will make again!5 stars

  4. I don’t care what this is made with or how the veggies are cut – it looks so delicious and I wish I had this for lunch today!

  5. I absolutely love your “rustic” approach to bolognese! I have to try this, such an easy  and quick recipe!

  6. This was dinner for the not vegetarians in my family tonight and they liked it a lot. I used almond milk, due to a lactose problem with one of them, and it seemed to work well. Also, I had more time than I thought I would so I simmered the sauce longer, but added twice as much crushed tomatoes to compensate for the evaporation. Dinner ended with full tummies and a debate about who would get what part of the leftover sauce. Thanks for a great recipe!5 stars

    1. Vivian, thanks so much for giving this recipe a try and taking the time to report back! I’m so glad to hear the recipe was a hit.

  7. excellent meal- I have made this 3-4 times now and it doesn’t disappoint
    I usually add 2 turkey sausage links crumbled to the meat
    and a bunch of finely chopped kale to the veggies
    also add more crushed tomatoes because of these additions
    if I have time I make it ahead and let it simmer but it really doesn’t need it

    1. Hi Annie, my skillet is pretty big…probably at least 14 inches. I love using 6-quart dutch ovens for pasta dishes like this too!

  8. Hi Erin, Just made this. I used the 99% fat free turkey, it wasn’t dry at all, and used it on top of zucchini noodles. It was absolutely wonderful!! Maybe too good, two of us ate it all :).  I did all the chopping early in the day so when I got home it was ready quickly. 5 stars

  9. I don’t have crushed tomatoes or tomatoes paste only tomatoe sauce. Is it doable and if so what would the substitution be? Thanks so much!5 stars

    1. Hi Nicole! I haven’t tried it myself, but you could experiment with one can (about 14-15 ounces) of tomato sauce. If the sauce is too thick you can add a little water, and if it’s too thin you can let it cook down a little further. I hope you enjoy!

  10. Looks great! Do you think this could be made in the Instant Pot? How long would you suggest on high pressure?

    1. Hi Madelaine, I have not tried this recipe in the Instant Pot, so I can’t say for certain. I’ve seen anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes on similar recipes online, so if you decide to experiment, I’d love to hear how it goes.

  11. Really good base recipe to start with. Just in case anyone is curious I preferred these few additions. Definitely chop up a nice ripe tomato as well as the can, use your fingers to break it up even more for a better consistency. Do not skimp on your mirepoix, DEFINITELY add the celery and carrot. Follow the 2:1:1 rule (onion:carrot:celery). I really like the addition of one cup brown mushrooms diced, I believe it enhanced the sauce with an earthy savoriness. SEASONING! Stop being scared people!! I did heaping table spoon of kosher salt, half black pepper, plus add a half table spoon of basil and italian seasoning. BEST PART: Trust me on this, just trust me. TWO tablespoons of olive oil (make your nana proud) add the zest of one large lemon NO JUICE, and about half a tablespoon of white sugar. I never write in comment sections, but I hope someone see’s this and follows it. Cheers from a cute lil’ kitchen in San Francisco.4 stars

  12.  I ended up putting the meat in the sauce and not the other way around ??‍♀️ how long do you think it needs to cook for and is this method doable for a backup? Thank you!!!!!!!!!

    1. Hi Emily! I suggest checking the sauce regularly and pulling out pieces of the meat to check for doneness. It may take longer since it wasn’t browned first. Browning the meat first is an important step for flavor in the sauce, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping it in the future. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  13. This was so delicious. I cannot believe I have not used ground turkey in my spaghetti sauce before. It was so much better than ground beef. Loved the carrots in the sauce too. So good!5 stars

    1. Hi Dani! I haven’t tried using dairy-free milk in this recipe, but you could experiment with soy, cashew, or canned coconut milk. If you decide to try one, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  14. My husband and I LOVE this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing, it is absolutely delicious and you’d never know it’s turkey! We finish with a little fresh basil in addition to the Parmesan and enjoy every mouthful. 5 stars

  15. Pretty tasty! I will make this again. To save time and adjust to dietary needs, I used coconut milk and substituted chicken broth for the wine with jarred tomato sauce. I served it over Zoodles (zucchini noodles) , and then once with leftover rice.

    What would the approximate calorie count be for just the sauce, no noodles?5 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, Candice! Thank you for sharing this kind review! I only have the nutrition estimate listed, but you could use a free online calculator like MyFitnessPal to input your exact ingredients. I hope this helps!

  16. This was delicious! I made it last night and served it with spaghetti squash (instead of regular noodles) and topped with cheese. The sauce was so good that the kids didn’t even care about the squash replacement and even got seconds. The only changes I made: doubled the crushed tomatoes(I felt that otherwise it would’ve been to milky/winey), added a little pureed vegetables. I can’t believe how fast this came together – I’ll definitely be making it again!5 stars

  17. Wow, this Turkey Bolognese was absolutely delicious and flavorful! I followed your recipe exactly with the exception of doubling the crushed tomatoes as I had a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.
    When I first tasted the sauce after adding the red wine, it seemed strongly wine flavor, but as the sauce simmered (I simmered the sauce a little longer about 30-40 minutes), the taste became wonderfully balanced with all the flavors melding together nicely! I couldn’t stop tasting this sauce as it was cooking ;) I also used the Giovanni Rana Fettucine since I couldn’t find the Tagliatelle at the store. My family, including my picky 13 year old son, loved this recipe and everyone had seconds! We topped the sauce with parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil. So yummy :) Thank you!5 stars

  18. Seriously my new “go-to” homemade meat sauce recipe. I love the extra veggies for extra nutrition, and the flavor from the tomatoes and wine is delish. It’s great on its own over pasta, or even better in lasagna or a baked pasta dish. I like to make it a day in advance and let it sit overnight to develop even better flavor.5 stars

    1. I’m sorry to hear that this recipe wasn’t to your tastes, Anna. I (and many other readers) have really enjoyed the flavors, so I truly wish you would’ve too!

  19. Looks like I only have diced tomatoes in the pantry, would that work? Or should I stick them in a food processor first?

    Thanks – love your recipes!!

    1. Hi Samantha! I’d suggest breaking the diced tomatoes down a bit first to reach more of a crushed tomato consistency. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  20. 6th recipe made! This one reminded me a lot of a traditional Ragu recipe I’ve been making for years. Mine doesn’t have milk, but it does have beef stock, which adds a nice depth. Anyway, I made this tonight following your directions and we all loved it. I’ll definitely make this again.5 stars

  21. Okay… I was a little apprehensive at first because I’ve never heard of pitting milk in bolognese sauce but…. OMG this sauce was so delicious! I made this recipe as is and I let it simmer a little longer to get a thicker consistency. I served it on top of some store bought gnocchi and it was incredible. I’ll be making this sauce on repeat.5 stars

  22. This is absolutely delicious! I’m so happy I found this recipe and can’t wait for my husband to get home to try it! Thank you for sharing it!5 stars

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

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. 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!

  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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!

  31. 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

  32. 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!

  33. 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

  34. 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