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Turkey Bolognese is quick and easy, made with lean ground turkey in a savory, creamy tomato sauce and ready in only 30 minutes!
Pasta recipes are always perfect for weeknights because they’re quick, easy, and filling. If you’re looking for more great gluten free pasta recipes, check out my Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Bake, One Pot Easy Chicken Alfredo, or Easy One Pot Chicken Parmesan & Pasta!
Turkey Bolognese is a dish that sounds fancy, but is actually really quick and easy to make for a weeknight meal. It’s made with lean ground turkey, tomato sauce, spices, cream, cheese, and fresh herbs.
The tomato sauce is sweetened using carrots and balanced with savory onion and spicy red pepper flakes. I know that this is not an authentic bolognese, but I can tell you that there were no leftovers. It’s my go-to weeknight bolognese, and hands down my favorite 30-minute meal!
Turkey Bolognese Ingredients
Ground Turkey. When I make this recipe at home, I usually use 95% lean ground turkey, but any ground turkey will work. You can also swap out the turkey for regular ground beef or ground pork for a more traditional bolognese.
Onions and Garlic. Onions and garlic make some of the primary flavors in this recipe. Fresh minced garlic is best, but garlic powder works if you don’t have any cloves of garlic. For every clove of fresh garlic, you can use 1/4 teaspoon of dried garlic in its place.
Carrots and Celery. Besides for making your house smell amazing while you’re sautéing these aromatic vegetables with the onion, carrots add a small amount of sweetness to the bolognese, balancing out the savory notes. Don’t leave out the carrots, they are a key ingredient!
Crushed Tomatoes. It wouldn’t be bolognese without tomatoes. I like crushed because you get some pieces of tomato in there, but you can also get away with tomato puree if that’s what you have. I do not recommend store-bought spaghetti sauce.
Tomato Paste. Tomato paste helps thicken the sauce, giving it that classic bolognese texture. You can also achieve this by cooking the sauce down for a long time. But if you want a faster weeknight version, tomato paste can help you get it to the right texture faster.
Half and Half. I’m trying to cut some of the fat down in this recipe, so I went with half and half. You can also substitute heavy cream here if it’s what you have. You’re only adding a quick splash of cream, so most of the fat is coming from the meat.
Parmesan Cheese. Parmesan adds a lot of flavor to the sauce, but the type of parmesan cheese you use can make a big difference. If you can, go for the fresh parmesan you grate yourself (or grate it in the food processor). You can also use Romano cheese here.
Spices. Keep it simple with basil, oregano, and parsley. Fresh parsley is best, but if you don’t have it you can add dried parsley. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.
Jacqui’s Tip! Make this turkey bolognese ahead of time and freeze it for a quick dinner option! After preparing the sauce, let it cool completely and put it in plastic ziplock bags (I double-bag mine just in case). Lay them flat when they’re freezing so they’ll stack easily. Then just move to the refrigerator the night before to defrost!
How to Make Turkey Bolognese
- Add onions, butter, and oil. Cook until onions are softened, then add carrots, garlic, and celery and soften for about 5 minutes. Add spices and ground turkey. Cook until turkey is browned and cooked through.
- Add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Stir in parmesan, half and half, and fresh parsley. Mix together and serve turkey bolognese over gluten free pasta or spaghetti squash. Top with fresh basil and extra parmesan.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’re using ground turkey in this recipe because I’m going for a lower fat version. But traditionally bolognese would use ground beef, ground pork, or a combination of the two. If you don’t have turkey but still want to keep the fat lower, you can use lean ground beef. This recipe would also work with ground chicken.
Turkey bolognese can be thickened by adding tomato paste to the dish right before adding your crushed tomatoes. If you don’t have tomato paste, there are a few other ways to do it.
1. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of gluten free all purpose flour in with the onions and olive oil (after the onions are cooked down). Whisk over medium-high heat until the flour starts browning slightly (2-3 minutes), then add 3/4 cup of liquid (like gluten free vegetable stock). Whisk until it starts to thicken, then add your other ingredients as directed. You can add another tablespoon olive oil if needed.
2. Whisk 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 1/4 cup of cold water (make sure there’s no lumps) or vegetable stock. Add to the dish when you add the crushed tomatoes and stir well over medium heat. As the corn starch heats up, it will thicken the bolognese sauce.
3. If you follow the recipe as-is and it’s only a little bit too thin, add an extra one or two tablespoons tomato paste. Or increase the cooking time by another 5-10 minutes, stirring often, to cook the sauce down.
Bolognese sauce is similar to meat sauce, but different. It is usually thicker because it is cooked for longer, and has cream added to it to give it its creamy flavor and texture. For this recipe, we’re adding tomato paste to get to the texture faster, but a traditional version would be cooked for two hours or more.
Refrigerate. You can store this hearty bolognese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. This is actually better if you make it the day before, because it gives all of the flavors a chance to combine.
Freeze. This freezes really well, so you can make it ahead of time and take it out for busy weeknights. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for 2-3 months. Move to the refrigerator the night before to defrost, and reheat in a skillet over medium heat.
Jacqui’s Tip! To save some time, pulse your onions, carrots, and celery in the food processor for a really fast chop before cooking.
More Weeknight Recipes to Try
- Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
- Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers
- Turkey Meatloaf Muffins
- Crispy Oven Fried Pork Chops
- Easy Marinara Sauce
If you want more veggies, try adding these!
These aren’t exactly traditional in a bolognese recipe, but I like to add veggies anywhere I can!
- Green beans
- Butternut squash
Tips and Tricks
- If you’d like to add more depth of flavor to the sauce you can use 1/4-1/2 cup of dry white wine to deglaze the onions. Let it cook down for a few minutes before adding other ingredients. If you’re making this recipe with beef, use red wine instead of white wine.
- Top with fresh basil and grated parmesan for presentation!
- This is usually served over gluten free pasta, but you can also try serving this over spaghetti squash to cut down on carbs. Or use leftover sauce over roasted spaghetti squash for lunch the next day.
- If you don’t want the bolognese to be as spicy, you can leave the red pepper flakes out. You can also substitute chili flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- There’s not a ton of choices with gluten free pasta, so I usually use penne because it holds up the best. But use your pasta of choice with this dish.
If you loved this recipe, be sure to leave a 5 Star review below, and tag me with a photo of your finished recipe on instagram @Jacqui_DishingDelish!
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion , chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves , peeled and chopped
- 1 medium celery stalk , chopped
- 1 medium carrot , chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley , chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- large skillet
- In a large skillet over medium heat add olive oil, butter, and onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until onions start to soften. Add carrots, celery, and garlic and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.
- Add turkey and spices, stirring often, until turkey is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste, then add crushed tomatoes and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in parmesan, fresh parsley, and half and half before serving.
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