This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure.

Bolognese sauce, or ragù alla bolognese, is a full-bodied meat sauce originally from Bologna, Italy.  Traditionally this sauce contains “beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, wine, and (optionally) milk or cream.”  (You can read more about bolognese sauce here.)  I based this recipe on Emeril Lagasse’s Spaghetti Bolognese, altering it to make it a little healthier and to accommodate ingredients that I normally keep in my pantry and/or fridge. 

img_4758-smallInstead of pancetta I use turkey bacon, which gives it a nice, slightly smoky background flavor without the added fat of pancetta; then I use ground turkey to pair with the turkey bacon.  I use balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, which gives the sauce a nice subtle tang that I really enjoy.  As far as the cinnamon and nutmeg goes, don’t worry, you won’t be able to differentiate the taste of these spices…they just help to round out and enhance the flavor of the sauce.  And because I like my bolognese sauce to be thick and rich and deep red, I omit the milk and/or cream (which also helps to save on calories) and instead use a small amount of butter to finish the sauce.

img_4828-smallTurkey Bolognese


(Yield:  About 6 cups of sauce)


2 TB olive oil

4 slices turkey bacon, finely diced

2 medium onion, finely diced

2 large stalks celery, finely diced

2 medium carrots, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground turkey

2 TB balsamic vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried Italian herb mix

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (with juices)

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

2 c stock (turkey, chicken, beef, or veggie)

1/4 chopped fresh parsley

1 TB butter (optional, for finishing the sauce)

Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)

Prepared pasta and green salad (for serving)


In a 5-quart pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the turkey bacon and sauté until browned (about 5 minutes), then add the onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until the veggies are starting to soften (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the turkey and cook until browned (about 5 minutes), then add the balsamic vinegar.  Let the vinegar deglaze the pot by using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom.  Stir in the salt, pepper, bay, dried Italian herb mix, cinnamon, nutmeg, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and stock.  Simmer the sauce (uncovered) on low heat for about 2 hours (stirring occasionally) or until it’s thickened up to your desired consistency.  Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley and butter.


Serve with your favorite pasta (the shape I used was mini rigatone) and garnished with Parmesan cheese, alongside a green salad.


Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie says:

    Yum! The turkey bolognese sounds fantastic!

  2. That sounds healthy and delicious!I love your bolognese recipe.

  3. Wow that looks fantastic!! Love your new site, sorry for the delay in commenting :-(

  4. I got jittery with excitement reading this recipe. Totally making this next week! THANK YOU!!! Bolognese is my faavorite!!

  5. This bolognese looks really good. Very satisfying with less fat. Nice.

  6. Ooooohhh, that looks mighty scrumptious! What great flavors!



  7. Mmm, bolognese, such a classic which I always find so delicious. I love the idea of the turkey bacon adding the extra depth of flavour – gorgeous!

  8. What a marvelous recipe, Faith! I love the idea of using turkey bacon and turkey, and the herbs and spices in the recipe sound perfect. The minute I saw instructions for slow cooking it for 2 hours, I knew it would be delicious. Thick and hearty and yet with fewer calories than most bolognese recipes. I also think using rigatone is just right- the sauce seems to cling to it.

  9. Ooh turkey bolognese! That’s gotta be a healthy version of pasta sauce! :) Looks very appetizing!

  10. Faith, this sauce looks awesome. Great idea with the turkey bacon and ground turkey. I like the way you deglazed the pan with balsamic vinegar. The nutmeg and cinnamon….yum! I love small sprinkles of those seasonings in my savories as well. Great photos! I would eat that sauce on everything……especially a giant bowl of steamed veggies.

  11. what a wonderful batch of meat sauce, faith! i love that you made use of turkey in every way, and the dash of those aromatic spices is a crowning touch!

  12. Your sauce looks wonderful! Great idea to substitute with the turkey and turkey bacon! Have you ever tried Trader Joe’s turkey bacon? It’s fabulous!

  13. Your picture is so good it make me want to have meatsauce right now (and I’ve just had dinner!)
    I’m a huge fan of pancetta, while I don’t like turkey bacon too much, but I guess that mixing the pancetta with ground turkey would result in a good compromise (and a good dinner!)

  14. You did an excellent job of lightening it up without sacrificing flavor! It looks incredibly rich and delicious!

  15. I really must try and get a hold of turkey bacon. We don’t have that here but I’m so intrigued by it! :D This looks delicious Faith, like a big bowl of hugs :D

  16. Your sauce looks thick and hearty. I bet your house smelled wonderful while this was cooking!

  17. I prefer ground turkey to ground beef most of the time. I love your lightened up version of bolognese! Your photos are making me drool! Yum!

Similar Posts