Weeknight Turkey Bolognese

On many occasions, usually to impress a man company, I have made and served Ina Garten’s weeknight Bolognese sauce.  It’s a sauce that seems like it could have taken all day to make, but comes together in well under an hour.  It’s so good as-is that I had never ventured to make it any way other than by following The Barefoot Contessa’s directions word-for-word.  I don’t really know what got into me, but I decided to change it up a little and make it with ground turkey and a little less wine.  I’m not sure why I was shocked, but I was indeed, shocked that it was just as good (maybe even better) than making it the original way.

Of course, halfway through making the sauce, I realized all I had on hand was penne for pasta, but it worked fine. I do recommend serving it over orecchiete or small shells, as Ina suggests, because they really hold the sauce better. Also, the original recipe says this makes 4-5 servings, but I find that if I pair 1/2 C. of the sauce with 1 C. of pasta, I have roughly eight servings with sauce left over. Feel free to divide it into 4-5 servings, I don’t judge!  My one other adaptation to this was that Ina says to put a splash of olive oil into the pasta as it cooks.  I never do this, because then I find that the sauce doesn’t stick to the pasta as well.  Many chefs, and my mother, agree with me there, and as an added bonus, that means less fat in the overall dish.

Weeknight Turkey Bolognese


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 C. dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried pasta (I suggest orecchiette or small shells, but used penne)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 C.. heavy cream
  • 1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the ground turkey and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has started to brown.

Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute.

Pour 3/4 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits.

Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste,  1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl.

Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well.

Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Makes about 8 servings.

Source: adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?


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