This ground turkey spaghetti sauce is a quick and healthy riff on traditional ragu that’s made with ground turkey, canned tomatoes, white wine, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.
While this ground turkey spaghetti sauce seems decadent, it’s healthy, with lean turkey and white wine taking the place of red meat and heavy cream, the depth of flavor conjuring up a long-simmering, authentic three-day Bolognese. The honest truth is that it only takes 45 minutes. And, while you might imagine this sauce is labor-intensive, it’s in fact super easy, with your food processor doing all the work. But don’t take my word for it (I’ve been known to fib)—the proof is in this thick, rich-tasting ragu.–Julie Albert & Lisa Gnat
What is a “ragu”?
A hearty Italian sauce that’s used primarily with pasta, “ragu” is typically a lot more generous with the meat than anything else in the ingredient list. It’s most commonly made with ground beef along with tomatoes, and finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots. And it’s magnificently satisfying.
Ground Turkey Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 medium (8 oz) red onion coarsely chopped
- 2 medium (4 oz) celery stalks chopped
- 2 medium (4 oz) carrots peeled and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 cup (1 oz) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- One (5.5 ounce) can tomato paste
- One (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound uncooked spaghetti
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
- Using a food processor or blender, combine the red onion, celery, carrots, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and crushed red pepper flakes. Pulse on and off until the ingredients are finely chopped, about 20 seconds.
- Drop the vegetables into a large pot and add the ground turkey. Place over medium-high heat and cook, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon until cooked through and the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper.
- Pour in the white wine and increase the heat to high, letting it cook down for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and cook the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you have more time, uncover and continue to cook the sauce for 10 to 20 minutes more.
☞TESTER TIP: The longer you cook the sauce, the more nuanced and balanced the taste. We suggest you let it simmer for a total of at least 30 and preferably 40 minutes.
- While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.
- Toss cooked pasta with the spaghetti sauce and serve with Parmesan cheese.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a good recipe for ground turkey spaghetti sauce and it comes together quickly. As I was putting it together, I wondered if it would have much flavor since there aren’t many spices in it. All the veggies and the rosemary are enough, and the rosemary flavor comes through nicely without overpowering.
My only negative was that as the sauce sits, it separates so there are thin watery parts. Next time I would simmer without the lid so some of the liquid evaporates.
As a lover of anything pasta, this ground turkey spaghetti sauce was a delicious and new way for me to enjoy one of my favorite food sources. I’ve never had a pasta sauce made with turkey—and this was a wonderful introduction to it.
The spahgetti sauce felt light yet layered with flavor. The recipe as written was a bit too spicy for us. I would suggest that if you like spicy, keep it the way it is. If not, then lighten up on the black pepper and maybe a bit on the red as well.
I was skeptical reading the headnote but this ground turkey spaghetti sauce recipe was spot on. Forty-five minutes (or less), very easy, and delicious. I really didn’t think the sauce would have that deep ragu flavor, and while tasting a traditional ragu side-by-side against this one would probably highlight big differences, I was amazed at the umami factor in this turkey ragu. I think it was the wine that did the trick.
The sauce was even better the second day—like many of the best tomato sauces. The recipe was clear and could not have been easier. There’s really not more to say.
Super easy. Great flavor. This meal can be put together in less than an hour, but looks and tastes like it’s much more complex. I did not miss the red meat at all.
The tomato sauce has great flavor thanks to the fresh rosemary and parsley added to the vegetables. The little bit of crushed red pepper flakes adds just the right kick. Since there are only two of us, we had quite a bit left over. However, I anticipate it freezing well. So we have it to look forward to again soon!
The only thing I would do differently is to serve the ground turkey spaghetti sauce over heartier pasta, such as pappardelle or campanelle, rather than spaghetti. I even had time to clean up while the ragu simmered!
I was drawn to this ground turkey spaghetti sauce recipe solely based on having all the ingredients on hand. It’s nice to have a simple and convenient recipe that you can put together quickly every once in a while using ingredients that are readily available. This did not disappoint and I’ll make it again when in a pinch for a good, quick, and hearty meal.
I’d make a few minor adjustments when I make it again, however. I’d add more salt and perhaps a tablespoon of olive oil to saute the turkey/vegetable/herb mixture in. It would loosen up the mixture, as it seemed a little dry and didn’t cook down enough. Perhaps if I’d used a higher fat content turkey this wouldn’t have been a question. But that’s what I had on hand.
I’d also cook the spaghetti sauce for 30 to 40 minutes as I thought 20 minutes wasn’t enough to meld the flavors and cook off the raw tomato paste flavor that tomato paste can sometimes have.
I enjoyed this recipe and agree with the introduction that it is a hearty, flavorful dish that’s easy to make and doesn’t require a long cooking time.
I think the recipe would benefit from simmering just a bit longer than the 20 minutes directed, in order to better develop the flavors and fully eliminate the raw canned tomato taste.
As instructed, I found this recipe did not have enough moisture initially. The ground turkey did not render much fat and the vegetables did not release any moisture, since salt was not to be added until after the mixture was cooked.
Some recipes that use ground turkey to make a healthier meal do not measure up to a more traditional beef and/or pork recipe. This wasn’t the case here. I really liked the turkey and didn’t feel that it was a lesser substitute. Overall, I think this is an easy and tasty recipe that I will definitely make again.
I love a simple ragu—the happy-go-lucky, spontaneous sibling to slow, proper Bolognese or all-day (or overnight) oven-roasted meat sauce. This recipe refines my approach with simple proportions and a time-saving bonus of food processor prep for your mirepoix. You don’t even have to get all cheffy to make a sauce that beats any jar off the grocer’s shelf by being so much better (but put on an apron just to feel confident and stain free). This is the 5:30 pm answer to “any thoughts on dinner?” and I am grateful for options to make cooking less a chore on those days.
When the recipe says coarsely chop, yes, that is enough because the food processor will do the fine work making a mirepoix of the aromatics (onions, carrots, celery plus herbs, etc) all resemble the coarse-grind of the turkey meat. That also means if, like me you’re sensitive to onions, that task is brief. This cooks all at the same time, and does not require lengthly caramelization in additional fats, but with tomato paste (or in my house, double strength tomato paste in a tube) and good crushed tomatoes, it all comes together.
Get everything in place, because the beginning goes quickly. Pay attention to how the meat turns opaque as the vegetables start to fade and soften and release a bit of liquid. Pour yourself a glass. When you add the wine to the recipe, let it cook down, and after adding the tomatoes definitely keep the lid partially off. After 10 to 15 minutes, I tasted the sauce, and at 20 minutes I completely removed the lid to let it continue. Another 10 to reduce the liquid, then put the pasta on. Use a good pasta—”bronze-cut’”means the texture is a bit rougher and sauce clings to it mo’ bettah.
Does this make more than you need for one night? Yes, great! I squirreled some away in the freezer for a day when I just can’t cook another meal from scratch, and played the remainder forward for a quick lasagna the next day. That lasagna is a whole extra reason to make a batch of this sauce even if you are a small household. What most often discourages me from making lasagna is that I don’t have time to make a sauce. This is the perfect use of some of the remainders and interleaved with layers of sliced butternut squash, the sweetness matched the savoury sauce beautifully.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
What a perfectly delish Sunday (or any day) dinner. I think the rosemary makes the spaghetti sauce. It’s not fussy or complicated and takes no time whatsoever to make.
This took me 40 minutes to prepare. I used my food processor to pulse all of my vegetables and I let the wine reduce for 5 minutes before I added the crushed tomatoes and paste. The turkey spaghetti sauce didn’t leave me wanting for anything more. It was flavorful and delicious. I didn’t miss red meat or cream at all, and I actually liked this much better. It was super light and flavorful.