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A close-up overhead shot of a plate of turkey bolognese pasta on a white plate. The pasta is topped with fresh parsley and parmesan, and a patinaed fork and spoon are nestled within the pasta. A black and white striped towel lies next to the plate on a white surface.

Best-Ever Turkey Bolognese Recipe

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


I fell in love with pasta bolognese during my time working in a fine dining Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. After much begging, the restaurant’s chef taught me how to make it myself at home. The only problem? I didn’t always have time for the hours-long simmer required to properly cook a classic bolognese sauce. My solution? Create an equally delicious sauce using a leaner protein – ground turkey.

This particular turkey bolognese, which I’ve lovingly dubbed “fauxlognese,” is a recipe I’ve been making in the past 10+ years since – in fact, it was one of the first recipes we ever shared here on PWWB back in 2016!

It’s essentially a halfway point between PWWB’s Best-Ever Bolognese (the real-deal restaurant version I fell in love with, made with decadent ingredients like pancetta & slowly simmered for next-level richness) & my Weeknight Bolognese (a quicker cooking recipe with a few shortcut ingredients). It pairs ground turkey with fragrant aromatics & streamlined cooking to create restaurant-worthy richness despite the simmer & leaner protein. It comes together relatively quickly & packs a huge punch of cozy flavor!

Once it’s beautifully simmered, all that’s left to do is marry the bolognese sauce with pasta. While tagliatelle or spaghetti might be most traditional, I highly recommend trying bucatini, a tubular spaghetti with the best hearty texture. Finish with some grated parm & a generous sprinkling of finely chopped fresh herbs, & it’s the ultimate comfort food meal. ♡ Happy cooking!


  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • one 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (see Recipe Notes), roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry, unoaked white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 810 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • optional: 1 parmesan rind
  • ½ cup chicken stock or water
  • ½ cup half & half
  • ½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano
  • 16 ounces bucatini or pasta of choice
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: grated parmesan or pecorino romano, finely chopped fresh basil or parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.


  1. Turkey bolognese prep: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prep the veggies, dicing the carrot, celery, & onion, & finely chopping the garlic. To roughly chop the San Marzano tomatoes, transfer them & their juices to a food processor & pulse until they’re as smooth or chunky as you like; you can also crush the tomatoes by hand if you prefer. Gather & measure remaining ingredients according to Ingredients List, above, placing them within an arm’s reach of the stovetop for a smooth cooking process.The ingredients for turkey bolognese rest on a white cutting board and white and grey surface: olive oil, carrots, celery, yellow onion, lean ground turkey, garlic, tomato paste, dry white wine, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, fresh thyme, bay leaves, parmesan rind, pasta sauce, chicken stock, salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the soffritto: Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven (or large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid) over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the carrots, celery, & onion. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned & fragrant, 15-20 minutes. If the veggies begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Once browned, push the soffritto mixture to the outer edges of the pot.Browned carrots, celery and onion (soffritto) are in a white pot resting atop a white and grey marbled surface. A wooden spoon sits in the pot.
  3. Brown the turkey: Add the ground turkey to the center of the pot, such that it’s surrounded by the soffritto mixture, & season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce heat to medium. Let the turkey brown 2-3 minutes without touching it, then turn it over & brown the second side 2-3 minutes before using a wooden spoon to break it apart into bite-sized pieces. Stir to combine with the soffritto mixture.Soffrito mixture is pushed to the outer edges of a white pot, and the browned turkey sits in the center. The pot is sitting on a white and grey marbled surface. A wooden spoon rests on top of the pot.
  4. Build the turkey bolognese sauce: Add the garlic & tomato paste to the Dutch oven, stirring to coat the ground turkey soffritto mixture. Cook 2-3 minutes, until browned & fragrant, then build the bolognese sauce. Deglaze the pan by slowly pouring in the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Once the wine is almost completely cooked off, add in the chopped San Marzano tomatoes & their juices, fresh rosemary & thyme, bay leaves, parmesan rind (if using), & chicken stock or water. Stir to combine. Bring the bolognese to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot (place the lid on the pot such that it’s just partially covered, allowing some steam to escape as the sauce simmers) & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.An overhead shot of turkey bolognese sauce simmering in a white handled pot on a white surface, with a wooden spoon resting in it.
  5. Cook the pasta: Meanwhile, as the turkey bolognese sauce simmers, cook the pasta. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water from Step 1. Cook to al dente according to package directions, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Once cooked, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot to reserve about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, & set aside. Carefully drain the pasta. (Learn more! ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)Strained bucatini pasta rests in a white colander atop a white and grey marbled surface.
  6. Finish the turkey pasta bolognese: Remove the lid from the pot with the bolognese sauce, increasing heat to medium-high to maintain a steady simmer. Stir the half & half and grated parmesan into the bolognese. Cook 1-2 minutes, allowing everything to meld together. Add the pasta straight into the pot, tossing to coat it in the turkey bolognese. From here, adjust as needed so the turkey bolognese sauce evenly coats the pasta – if the mixture is too thick, toss in a little of the reserved pasta water; if the mixture is too loose, toss in an extra handful of parmesan cheese, etc. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the sauce.Finished turkey bolognese pasta sits in a white double handled braising pan atop a white and grey marbled surface.
  7. Serve immediately, topped with additional grated parmesan, chopped basil or parsley, &/or a sprinkling of crushed red pepper, as desired. Enjoy!A close-up overhead shot of a plate of turkey bolognese pasta on a white plate. The pasta is topped with fresh parsley and parmesan, and a patinaed fork and spoon are nestled within the pasta. A black and white striped towel lies next to the plate on a white surface.


  • Make-Ahead, Storage & Freezing:
    • Pasta Bolognese Storage & Reheating: Leftover pasta bolognese will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through, adding a splash of stock or water as needed to loosen up the turkey bolognese sauce to your desired texture.
    • Make-Ahead Turkey Bolognese Sauce Storage & Reheating: This turkey bolognese sauce is the perfect make-ahead recipe because it stores so well – it’s one of those things that gets even better as it sits & its flavors meld together! To store, prepare according to Steps 2-4 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat bolognese sauce on the stovetop. Once simmering, finish according to Steps 5-7 of Recipe Directions, above.
    • Turkey Bolognese Sauce Freezer Instructions: This turkey bolognese sauce is also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, prepare according to Steps 2-4 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to a freezer container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – Souper Cubes are my absolute favorite freezer containers! Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen turkey bolognese sauce in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Easily reheat on the stovetop. Once simmering, finish according to Steps 5-7 of Recipe Directions, above.
  • Alternate Cooking Methods:
    • Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese: Prep the bolognese sauce according to Steps 2-3, then add garlic & tomato paste, & deglaze according to Step 4 of Recipe Directions, above. Transfer the turkey bolognese meat & soffritto mixture to the slow cooker, along with the fresh aromatics, tomatoes, & broth as directed in Step 4. Slow cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. At dinnertime, cook the pasta & finish the pasta bolognese as directed in Steps 6-7; you can do this right in your slow cooker. If your Crockpot or slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire turkey bolognese sauce recipe (Steps 2-4, 6) in the slow cooker.
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this turkey bolognese recipe comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops! – & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
    • Dice 2 medium carrots, 1 stalk of celery, & 1 medium yellow onion. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active)

Keywords: pasta bolognese, ground turkey bolognese, lightened up turkey bolognese