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! 

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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 includes white wine and milk. You can check out my favorite traditional Ragu Alla Bolognese recipe on my sister site Gluten Free Italian Eats.

So, this turkey bolognese 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!

See all of my healthy ground turkey recipes.

Ingredients

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:

How To Make Turkey Bolognese

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.

sausage link being cooked in a blue pan

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.

Ground turkey with seasoning being cooked on a stovetop

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.

Onions cooking as a base for a bolognese sauce

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.

Bolognese sauce base being cooked

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.

Bolognese sauce base being cooked in a blue pan

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.

Cooking Tips

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 Butcher Box, 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 grandma 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.

Serving Suggestions

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 healthy baked ziti.

Turkey bolognese sauce in a blue pot on a wooden table

How To Freeze

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Tip 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.

See more tips for freezing spaghetti sauces.

Healthy bolognese sauce made with turkey in a pan

More Italian Dinner Recipes

Now that you know how to make this delicious turkey bolognese sauce, here are a couple of more Italian-flavored recipes to make while you are it:

Turkey Bolognese

This delicious turkey bolognese a healthy yet hearty take on the classic Italian staple. It’s easy to prepare and perfect to freeze ahead of time. Enjoy this on pasta, with ziti, as a bread dip, or any other way you’d like.

Print Pin Rate

Course: dinner, Main Course

Cuisine: American, Italian

Keyword: healthy turkey bolognese, turkey bolognese, turkey bolognese recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Servings: 10 people

Calories: 271kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian poultry sausage links casings removed
  • 1 lb 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

Instructions

  • In a large ( 5 1/2 – 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.

Notes

How To Freeze 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Tip 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 271kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g

This Turkey Bolognese will have you wanting bowls and bowls of pasta to eat for days! Share a picture and tag me on Instagram or Facebook if you decide to make this!