Lightened up pasta Bolognese

Turkey or chicken make for a healthy and satisfying dish!

Don’t get me wrong – I love a decadent, rich pasta Bolognese. Simmered for hours, the beefy sauce is decadent and delightful. But sometimes, it can just feel a little too heavy for my palate. I decided to play around with ground poultry and see if I could come up with a sauce that had the same creamy texture without the heaviness, and which could be prepared in under an hour. A traditional Bolognese starts with the standard Italian soffritto base (sautéed onion, celery and carrot) plus minced beef and sometimes fatty pork like pancetta (bacon), red or white wine and heavy cream. As you can see below, in place of the pancetta, I’ve opted to use bacon fat for a little flavour boost but you can certainly use olive oil instead; reducing the amount of cream and increasing the amount of hot pasta cooking water added at the end gives the sauce the appropriate and appealing texture. Note that Bolognese is meant to be served over wide, flat pasta such as tagliatelle so the sauce sits on top of the noodles; you can also use pappardelle, fettuccine, rigatoni or penne. This is an ideal recipe for make-ahead cooking; you can make a double or triple batch and freeze in family-sized containers; just be sure to add the hot pasta cooking water right before serving.


  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil or bacon fat
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound (454 g ) ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) dry white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon (.5 g) each dried oregano and basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon (.5 g) smoked paprika
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Passata or tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup (56 g) tomato paste
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) light cream or milk
  • 8 oz (225 g) tagliatelle or other pasta
  • 1 tablespoon (13 g) coarse sea salt
  • Chopped basil or parsley, to serve
  • Grated parmesan, to serve


  • In a large, heavy-duty pot placed over medium heat, warm olive oil or bacon fat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes (the finer the pieces, the quicker they will cook, hence the suggestion to grate the carrot).
  • Add the ground turkey or chicken and cook until no traces of pink remain, using a spoon to break up any clumps of meat. The broader your pan, the faster it will cook – it should take between 7-10 minutes.
  • Push the meat and vegetables away from the centre of the pan, creating a little nest. Add the minced garlic and white wine and let cook for 1 minute before stirring into the meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has almost evaporated, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Stir in the spices, Passata or tomato sauce, tomato paste and baking soda (to gently neutralize the acid in the tomatoes) then cook, stirring occasionally, until aromatic and uniform in colour; about 5 minutes.
  • Add broth and cream and increase heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat so it is just simmering; cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until sauce is creamy and thickened. Sauce can be refrigerated or frozen at this point, if desired.
  • To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the tablespoon of coarse salt, followed by the pasta, and cook according to package directions until just tender (al dente) but not mushy.
  • Before draining the cooked pasta, scoop out 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the starchy cooking water and stir into the simmering pasta sauce.
  • Drain pasta and either mix with sauce in a large bowl, or portion out into individual bowls and top with sauce. Garnish with a sprinkle of herbs and parmesan and serve hot.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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