Quick Turkey Ragu: an easy recipe for rich tomatoey Italian meat sauce, made with ground turkey.
Does anyone else eat meat sauce with a spoon? (standing in front of the fridge, cold, out of the pot…?) A good Italian meat sauce is totally irresistible to me. Nothing excites the dinner table quite like rich, silky ragu alla bolognese over pasta. It’s the star of Italian meat sauces and, in my opinion, one of the world’s most delicious dishes.
But have you ever tried cooking bolognese from scratch? It requires several stages of preparation and 3 or more hours of simmering. It also packs a good amount of fat and calories. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s totally worth the the time and effort (and calories) to cook authentic ragu alla bolognese for a special occasion.
But for those of us who crave delicious ragu often and always, there has to be another way. So here you go – a quick turkey ragu recipe, healthy enough and easy enough for weeknight dinner, delicious enough for any occasion.
This recipe starts with a simple, 4-ingredient tomato sauce or, to make it even faster, use your favorite store-bought marinara.
Ground turkey doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own. But after it simmers with shallots and garlic and wine-scented tomato sauce, it’s so rich and tasty, you might even forget it’s turkey and think you’re eating ‘beefy’ meat sauce.
How To Make Quick Turkey Ragu
First you make a simple tomato sauce from scratch: sauté garlic, onions, red pepper flakes and canned tomatoes. It only takes about 15 minutes. By the way, if you’re pressed for time, you can skip this step and substitute 4 cups of your favorite store-bought marinara. (I recommend Rao’s Marinara)
While the tomato sauce is simmering, sauté the ground turkey with shallots and more garlic in a skillet. Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes to reduce the wine and intensify the flavors. Combine the turkey-wine mixture with the tomato sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes and voila!There are many options for how to serve turkey ragu, depending on your mood or dietary preferences. Go traditional and serve it over your favorite pasta. If you prefer to dine gluten-free, turkey ragu is delicious with spaghetti squash or zoodles.
One night I had a non-turkey eater and a non-gluten eater at my house for dinner. I made two pots of ragu, one beef – one turkey. I offered a choice of spaghetti squash or wagon wheels (my son Paul’s favorite pasta). Gotta please everyone! (iPhone photo below)
While we’re on the topic of delicious, healthier recipes made with ground turkey, here are a few more great ones:
- Italian Style Turkey Meatballs. (the secret ingredient is grated sweet potato)
- Sicilian Turkey Meatloaf (mixed with mashed potatoes instead of bread crumbs)
- Turkey Zucchini Meatballs (with Lemony Yogurt Sauce, from chef Ottolenghi)
- Turkey Falafel Meatballs (with Lemon Yogurt Sauce.
- And now here’s the recipe for Quick Turkey Ragu. As always, I’m hoping that if you cook this, you’ll come back to leave a comment and a star rating. I’d love to know what you think.
Quick Turkey Ragu
A quick, healthy, delicious turkey meat sauce to serve over pasta, spaghetti squash or zoodles.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 40 mins
- Yield: 5 1x
- Category: Pasta Sauce
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: Italian
- For the Ragu:
- 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2–3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (¼ cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
- 1½ pounds ground turkey. I have a slight preference for dark meat. (ground beef or lamb are great too!)
- 1 cup of good dry red wine. Good choices are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, or Zinfandel.
- 4 cups of your favorite marinara sauce such as Rao’s, or easy homemade tomato sauce (see recipe below)
- For The Homemade Tomato Sauce (if using)
- ¼ cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped (½ cup)
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced (1 tablespoon)
- 1 28-ounce can of good quality tomato puree (I use Muir Glen Organic or San Marzano)
- 4 tablespoons good quality tomato paste (half of a 6-ounce can)
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- Optional Garnishes:
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese (I recommend Parmigiana Reggiano)
- Fresh basil leaves, slivered or chopped
- Make The Tomato Sauce (or skip this step if using store-bought marinara sauce): Heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat, in a heavy pot or Dutch oven, with a lid. Add onions and red pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, to soften the onions. Add 1 tablespoon garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until fragrant (don’t let it brown). Add tomato puree, tomato paste, water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and immediately lower to a gentle simmer. Partially cover the pot to prevent sputtering. Simmer sauce for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Make The Turkey Ragu: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet or heavy sauce pan, over medium heat. Add chopped shallots. Sauté, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic and sauté, stirring, for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the turkey and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the turkey has lost all of it’s pink color. If there’s lots of liquid in the pot, cook for an additional minute to evaporate some of the liquid. Pour in the wine and simmer on medium-low for 5 minutes, until the wine is reduced by about half. Pour in 4 cups of marinara sauce or homemade tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Cook the meat sauce, partially covered, for 10 minutes to combine flavors.
- To Serve: Serve sauce over pasta, spaghetti squash, or zoodles. For a richer, creamier consistency, stir ½ cup of ricotta cheese into the sauce before serving. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and slivered basil.
This recipe was first published on July 27, 2016. Updated on August 6th, 2018. It’s the same delicious recipe with added nutritional information and a few tweaks to make the recipe easier to follow.
Keywords: turkey bolognese, ground turkey pasta sauce, Italian spaghetti sauce with ground turkey
- If you’re a fan of ragu, here’s another light and delicious ragu recipe from Cooking Light that you can make it your slow cooker.