Rich Turkey Tomato Bolognese Recipe

Think of countries famous for their cuisine and Italy will definitely rank highly on any list; it seems every city and region has an associated dish. Milan has given us Pork Milanese, from Tuscany we have Zuppa Toscana, and perhaps, most famously, bolognese, which reigns from the city of Bologna. With bolognese being served almost world-wide, you'd think that we have a good understanding of what it is, however what we understand to be bolognese is likely to be quite different from what an Italian would recognize. Traditionally, Bolognese is one very specific type of ragù, which is the broader term for pasta sauces made using meat and tomatoes. As time has passed however, and bolognese has become a globally loved dish, the term bolognese has become a catch-all term to describe any pasta sauce using minced meat. 

These days a number of different meats are used to make a bolognese, and in this delicious adaptation, recipe developer Jennine Rye uses turkey mince as the base of this delicious and rich ragù. Turkey mince is lighter that beef mince, because of its lower fat content, so it may be better suited to certain dietary requirements and preferences. It can also be less expensive than beef, providing a more cost-effective recipe — particularly if you're catering for larger numbers.

Gather the ingredients for this rich turkey tomato bolognese

To make this rich turkey tomato bolognese, first you will need to gather the ingredients. You will need turkey mince, some white wine (only a cup, leaving the rest of the bottle to enjoy with the meal), an onion, a carrot, some celery, and a can of tomatoes. You'll also need some chicken stock, crushed garlic, a bay leaf, some sugar, and some milk, as well as salt and pepper for seasoning.

To make the perfect bolognese it is important to be aware of the fat content of the mince you buy, as the supermarket will stock turkey mince with different quantities of fat. We recommend choosing a mince which isn't too lean, as the fat will add a lot of the flavor and help keep the meat from drying out. 

Fry the turkey mince

To begin the bolognese, first you will want to heat up a large pan and add oil. Then add the turkey mince, season well and fry until it is browned. It's important to season the turkey at this stage to give the turkey mince a lovely deep flavor ahead of adding the other ingredients. Once the mince is browned, remove it and place it to one side, then cook the onion, celery, carrot mixture until soft. This mix of fried vegetables is called a soffritto and is often used as a base for recipes in the Italian cuisine, adding both flavor and depth to the final dish. 

Build the bolognese

The key to a good bolognese is to layer the flavors to create a delicious meal with depth and complexity. Add the garlic to the soffritto and cook for a few minutes. Then, add the turkey mince back to the pan with the soffritto and add the white wine, allowing the ingredients to cook in the alcohol for a few minutes and absorb its flavor. Then add the tomato puree, the chopped tomatoes, the herbs, sugar, and stock. Give everything a good stir and then it is time leave the bolognese to simmer. With dishes like this, the most important ingredient is time. A Bolognese needs a lot of time and patience for the flavors to develop and combine, and the longer you can afford to let it simmer, the deeper and richer the flavor will become.

Finish the bolognese

After the bolognese has been gently simmering for an hour or so, it's time to add the final ingredient: the milk. Although this may seem a strange addition to a tomato and meat-based sauce, the milk is indeed a traditional ingredient in a bolognese. It adds a delicious richness to the final dish, and as it is slightly acidic it can help to tenderize the meat fibers of the mince. Once you try this addition you won't go back! With the milk added, stir the contents of the pan well, and then let the bolognese simmer for a further 10 minutes before serving hot with your chosen accompaniment. Finish off with some Parmesan and chopped basil if desired. Store any cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within three days.

Rich Turkey Tomato Bolognese Recipe
5 from 33 ratings
This decadent sauce with ground turkey as the base has layers of complex and delicious flavor.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Turkey bolognese with spaghetti
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
  • 1 pound turkey mince
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk
Optional Ingredients
  • ½ cup Parmesan, to serve
  • 2 sprigs basil, to serve
  1. Heat up a large, heavy bottomed pan to a medium heat. Add one tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan and then add the turkey mince, season well with the salt and pepper, and proceed to gently brown the meat for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set to one side.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, along with the chopped onion, carrot, and celery. Fry for another 5 to 10 minutes until softened, then add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.
  3. Return the turkey mince to the pan and add the white wine. Cook for 5 minutes then add the chopped tinned tomatoes, the tomato purée, the sugar, the dried thyme, the bay leaf, and the chicken stock to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and then allow everything to gently simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. After an hour, add the milk to the pan and let everything cook for another 10 minutes before serving.
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