Weeknight Turkey Bolognese

Updated: Jul 1


Everyone needs a killer weeknight meat sauce recipe, and I'm not talking about a pound of ground beef and a jar of red sauce. I'm talking about fragrant aromatics, seasonal veggies, fresh herbs, imported tomatoes, fruity vino, and lean turkey. If I've caught your attention, keep reading! Here is my tried and true turkey bolognese recipe, a nutritious, family friendly meal that graces our table frequently. While it's not authentic bolognese (see Marcella Hazan's recipe for The Best Bolognese if that's what you're after), it's still hearty and delicious minus the three hour cook time and extra calories. This bolognese is a streamlined, lightened version of one of my favorite classic pasta dishes. My kids love it (it's loaded with protein and veggies), and it's a great meal prep recipe (freeze your leftovers in Ziplocks for future dinners). I wouldn't call this a speedy recipe (it takes about an hour from start to finish), but it's an easy make ahead meal that can be left on a low simmer while you attend to that laundry, play with your kids, pay your bills, paint your toenails, etc. You can also easily adapt this for the InstantPot! If you follow me on Instagram, check out my stories for the even quicker IP version of this recipe. The key to a successful bolognese is using the best ingredients and having patience. Don't rush the process- you need to fully complete each step before moving on to the next. The veggies need to begin to caramelize before you add the meat, that needs to brown before you deglaze with the wine, that needs to reduce before you add the tomatoes, that need to simmer a while before you stir in some butter...layers of flavor are what you're after! Season as you go and always taste to make sure something isn't missing. One of my favorite red sauce tricks is to stir a little butter in right at the end of cooking- it really takes the edge off the acidic tomatoes and rounds the flavor out. Another tip is to add in a parmesan rind while the sauce simmers for added depth and richness (this is optional, but I always have one or two in my freezer). I like to swap out different vegetables for the zucchini listed here depending on the season: chopped mushrooms, peppers, fennel, or even butternut squash would make great options depending on the time of year. A bowl of bolognese is always a good idea! Enjoy!

prep time: 20 min. cook time: ~1 hr. serves: 6


INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

black pepper

1 red onion, small diced

1 large carrot, small diced

1 large celery stalk, small diced

1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2" cubes

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp rosemary, minced

1 tsp thyme, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb ground turkey (preferably 85 or 93% lean)

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup red or white wine

1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 parmesan rind

2 tbsp butter


FOR SERVING

pasta of choice, chopped basil, grated parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the EVOO in a heavy pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and sweat until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and chili flake and stir to coat with the oil. Cook another 5 minutes or so, until there is some color on the zucchini and the vegetables have reduced by half.


Make a "clearing" in the center of the pot by moving the vegetables to the side and add the meat, seasoning with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Turn the heat up a bit if needed to brown the meat until no pink remains, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Stir the tomato paste into the meat and vegetable mixture and allow to cook 2 minutes.


Pour in the wine and let it reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, another tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, and the parmesan rind and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer, covered, about 40 minutes.


Check for seasoning and remove/discard the parmesan rind at the end of the cooking time. Off the heat, stir in the butter to melt. Spoon over pasta and garnish with basil and grated parmesan if desired.


INSTANT POT VERSION

Set the InstantPot to “sauté” and pour in the olive oil to heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and sweat until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and chili flake and stir to coat with the oil. Cook another 5 minutes or so, until there is some color on the zucchini and the vegetables have reduced by half.


Make a "clearing" in the center of the pot by moving the vegetables to the side and add the meat, seasoning with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Turn the heat up a bit if needed to brown the meat until no pink remains, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Stir the tomato paste into the meat and vegetable mixture and allow to cook 2 minutes.


Pour in the wine and let it reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, another tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, and the parmesan rind and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil then turn the InstantPot off and then set to cook at manual, high pressure for 15 minutes. Let the sauce natural release, then remove the lid and stir in the butter to melt. Check for seasoning then serve over pasta as desired.




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