Try easy turkey Bolognese sauce on your pasta tonight, made with ground turkey, Italian turkey sausage, tomatoes, and fresh basil. It tastes like it’s been simmered all day (but it will only take you an hour!).

Overhead view of large platter of pasta topped with bolognese sauce and cheese.

You’ll love this good-for-you almost-classic Bolognese! The sauce is very rich tasting and hearty yet it’s lower in fat than traditional Bolognese because it’s made with healthier ground turkey. In fact, a generous serving of pasta and sauce is less than 400 calories! 

I know that many of you don’t have a lot of time or energy to cook. Our schedules keep us so busy and often take-out looks like a really good option when dinner time rolls around. But do you have an hour? That’s really all it takes to make this really great pasta with homemade sauce, and at least half of that time is hands-off.

So give it a try! Serve this classic spaghetti sauce with your favorite pasta, whether it’s spaghetti or linguine or penne. Make it a stay-at-home “Olive Garden” night with a simple green salad dressed with homemade Italian dressing and breadsticks with restaurant style dipping oil. That’s amore!

About this recipe

This is really an uncomplicated sauce recipe. All you’ll need is a nice big pan, like a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven. 

Begin by browning the carrots and onions, then add the meat, breaking up the clumps, and stirring until it’s cooked. Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and minced garlic; cook and stir for a couple of minutes. 

Hint: Not sure what to do with the tomato paste that’s left in the can? Divide the rest up into two tablespoon portions, place each portion into snack sized bags, flatten slightly, and freeze. The next time you make spaghetti sauce, just unwrap and drop the frozen sauce in the pan.

Okay, back to the sauce. Deglaze the pan with a little red wine. Now that the bottle’s open, why not pour yourself a glass, too? Add the tomatoes and let the sauce simmer for a while, twenty minutes at least but really as long as you want. You’ll probably want to get the pasta water boiling now. 

When you’re ready to serve dinner, stir in a dash of cream, and freshly chopped basil and parsley.

Only have dried herbs? No problem but use less if you’re using dried, about 1 tablespoon each.

Large platter of pasta with tomato sauce, in front of wine, bread, and fresh herbs.

What you need

This recipe has everything you’d expect in a winning pasta sauce! As always, scroll down for the printable version of the recipe.

  • Meat! We used a blend of ground turkey and sweet Italian turkey sausage. You could also use a combination of ground beef and pork Italian sausage, or ground beef and turkey Italian sausage, or ground beef and pork Italian sausage. Any combo of these will work!
  • Vegetables: Make sure to finely mince your onions and carrot so that they blend in with the meat and form a uniform sauce. You’ll also be adding a large can of crushed tomatoes.
  • Seasoning: Lots of garlic, of course, as well as fresh basil and parsley. If you’d like, sprinkle in a dash of red pepper flakes.
  • Flavor amplifiers: You’ll also be adding tomato paste and red wine to add depth to the flavor.
  • Heavy Cream: We use less in this recipe than many Bolognese recipes, to make it a little more guilt-free. Of course you’re welcome to add more! It adds a subtle richness and makes the sauce super velvety.
Linguine on a large platter, topped with meat sauce, bread and wine in background.

FAQ

Why do you add milk to Bolognese?

Adding milk serves a couple purposes. One, it gives it a velvety texture, but it also adds depth of flavor. It may also tenderize the meat slightly. We use just a dash of heavy cream in this recipe to keep down the calories, but also because heavy cream is much less likely to curdle over high temperatures. Plus, a little goes a long way, which is a bonus!

How do I make Bolognese better?

For the best tasting bolognese, we recommend following this recipe, especially the fresh herbs! Fresh herbs are flavor powerhouses and in a dish like this especially, dry will suffice, but fresh is a much better choice. You could also add more things to your sauce like finely diced mushrooms or red bell peppers. Dice them small like your other vegetables.

Do you put sugar in Bolognese?

You’ll notice our recipe does not call for sugar, but we recommend tasting at the end of cook time and adding sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes as desired.

How to make this healthy Bolognese your own

  • Looking for a slow cooker spaghetti sauce? Brown onion, carrots, garlic, and meat in a skillet on the stove. Add to a slow cooker with the remaining ingredients, except fresh herbs and cream. Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Or try Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce with meat or vegetarian options. 
  • Did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas? Try Instant Pot Bolognese
  • Not crazy about turkey? Substitute ground beef for the ground turkey and pork Italian sausage.
  • Omit the heavy cream if you’re lactose-intolerant. The sauce will still be great!
  • “Green up” your sauce with spinach leaves, stirring them in with the basil and parsley. The tender leaves will wilt almost instantly in the hot sauce.
  • Rather make your Bolognese with jar sauce from the grocery store? Omit the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, salt and pepper. Add a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce instead.
Overhead view of oval-shaped blue and white platter full of linguine and sauce.

Storage, Make-Ahead and Reheating Tips

Leftover sauce? This sauce reheats really well. Simply store it in the fridge in a tightly covered container for up to 4 days. Don’t worry if you already mixed the pasta with the sauce. You can reheat that, too. Warm up on the stove or on the microwave until it’s heated through.

Make Ahead: I love to make a double batch of sauce and freeze half to use later. Store it in a freezer container for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results.

Pasta topped with sauce and cheese. Wine, bread, and fresh herbs in background.

More pasta recipes

Eat pasta, run fasta! If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard that little jingle. Looking for more pasta recipes? Try:

Overhead view of large platter with linguine and turkey bolognese, topped with cheese.

Turkey Bolognese Recipe

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Try easy turkey Bolognese sauce on your pasta tonight, made with ground turkey, Italian turkey sausage, tomatoes, and fresh basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced carrot (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup finely diced onion (about ½ large onion)
  • ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, opt.
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • sugar, optional
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1 pkg. (14-16 oz.) spaghetti, or pasta of your choice

Instructions

  1. In a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté carrots, onions, salt and pepper for 3-4 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add ground turkey and sausage, and brown, breaking up clumps, until meat is cooked, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add wine, and cook 2 more minutes, scraping up browned bits, until wine is mostly reduced. Stir in crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes, if using. Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, 20-30 minutes, or longer, if desired.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water.
  4. When ready to serve, stir in basil, parsley, and heavy cream. Taste sauce and season with salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes as desired.
  5. Add drained pasta, and thin sauce with reserved pasta water, if necessary. Alternatively, serve sauce over pasta.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Notes

  • Slow cooker spaghetti sauce: Brown onion, carrots, garlic, and meat in a skillet on the stove. Add to a slow cooker with the remaining ingredients, except fresh herbs and cream. Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.
  • If you prefer, substitute ground beef for the ground turkey and use pork Italian sausage.
  • Omit the heavy cream if you're lactose-intolerant.
  • We don't typically add sugar, but we recommend tasting at the end of cook time and adding sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes as desired. Start with just a little sugar, though, 1/2 teaspoon at most, and add gradually as desired, stirring well and tasting each time.
  • Store leftovers in the fridge in a tightly covered container for up to 4 days. Warm up on the stove or on the microwave until it's heated through.
  • Make Ahead: We love to make a double batch of sauce and freeze half to use later. Store it in a freezer container for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 of 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 356Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 117mgSodium: 614mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 30g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

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