Deliciously Simple, Rich Meat Sauce…Made with Turkey!

December 8, 2009

meat sauce


I don’t usually make meat sauce. See, the ChowPapa used to make a mean meat sauce back in the day and, along with orzo risotto, it became one of those dishes that only he made. But it’s been ages (seriously—I’m talking years) since he’s made a batch, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Knowing how to make a delicious ragu is a gift—something handed down or perfected over time—so I prepared for several rounds of recipe development before I had anything worthy of sharing. But (not to toot my own horn or anything!) this sauce was rocking after the first try, even having used turkey instead of beef. Wanna know how I did it? Read on!

Before getting started, I listed a few tips I’d learned over the years about making a great tomato sauce:

  • Use pancetta
  • Start with onions, garlic and shredded carrot
  • Use milk (classic Bolognese style)
  • Finish with delicious, high quality olive oil

Because I wanted this to be a relatively quick and definitely easy recipe, I decided to skip using milk. The rest of the tips became the basis for my approach. The pancetta added a richness that’s especially important since I was using ground turkey. (You can make this sauce with beef, too—still use the pancetta.) The carrots added a mellow sweetness that rounds out the sauce’s flavor. Ending with good live oil gives the sauce a bright, fruity finish. It’s that simple.

I’ve made this sauce three time since the first try. Each time I think that I’ll tinker to see if I can make improvements, but I never do. I end up making it exactly as explained in this recipe. I hope you do, too! (But certainly let us know if you make any modifications that you’re proud of!) And consider making a double batch. This sauce freezes well and is a lifesaver on busy nights.

Deliciously Simple & Rich Turkey Ragu
(can be served to kids 10+ mos)

1/2 c organic olive oil + more
2 small organic onions, diced
3 slices pancetta, diced
1 large organic carrot, shredded
3 cloves organic garlic, diced
1 lb organic ground turkey
1/2 c wine (optional, I’ve used red and white—both work well, I prefer white)
2 28-oz cans organic whole peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion, pancetta and carrots. Sautee until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic, some salt and pepper. Continue sauteing until pancetta is crisped, carrots are soft, and onions have caramelized.

2. Add ground turkey, breaking up with a fork. Saute until cooked through and turkey is lightly browned.

3. Add wine. Cook for 2 minutes or so, until the wine settles to a consistent bubble.

4. Using your hands, break up the tomatoes. Add to the pot along with all of their juices. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to medium/low until you get a mellow, consistent simmer. Cover and cook for one hour or so.

5. Uncover and cook for another hour or so, until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Cooking time will vary, but should come in between 2 and 2 1/2 hours. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a hearty drizzle (or two!) of good olive oil.

4 Responses

  1. […] off, especially useful during busy times like the holidays. This Spinach Lasagna is made with my Deliciously Simple, Rich (Turkey) Meat Sauce. The combo of vegetable, lean meat, pasta and cheese makes this a healthy, complete meal. Once you […]

  2. […] chunky sauce—maybe with some added protein like in this Sausage Bolognese or this simple and rich Ground Turkey Ragu—can be tossed with noodles for little ones starting to manage chunks or eat with their fingers. […]

  3. Sheryl says:

    I love this recipe, but it has become increasingly difficult for me to find pancetta without nitrites. Can I use prosciutto? My family notices the difference in the richness of the sauce without pancetta?

  4. One Hungry Mama says:

    This is a great question, Sheryl. You can use prosciutto, though make sure you use thick-cut chunks as opposed to thin slices that you’d set out with a cheese plate. I think you’ll get comparable flavor. You can also use thick-cut bacon, too, though try to go with something that doesn’t have too much smoke. Neither have exactly the same richness, but they’ll work! And I totally get wanting to avoid nitrites.

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