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Instant Pot Bolognese with Ground Turkey

This quick Instant Pot Bolognese lightens things up by using ground turkey while still bringing a ton of flavor to your pasta!

Overhead shot of bowl of rigatoni topped with turkey bolognese.

Comfort food with a lean twist.

Stick to your ribs goodness—but make it heart-healthy. That’s the theme with this Instant Pot Ground Turkey Bolognese. There’s much less fat, but it’s still flavorful and satisfying. And you can have it made in a fraction of the time it takes to make a classic bolognese! I’m all about slow Sunday simmers on the stovetop, but sometimes that’s not an option. And for those times, we have our Instant Pot.

What is bolognese?

Traditionally, a bolognese is a slowly simmered meat-based sauce that starts with a blend of celery, carrots, and onions. Beef and fatty pork are added along with white wine, milk, tomato paste, and tomatoes. It’s hearty, comforting, and a total treat when layered into a bomb lasagna. Obviously this version isn’t traditional by any means, but I’m still confident in the result: a robust sauce that offers up flavor and comfort.

Overhead shot of Instant Pot

Tips on making a flavorful turkey bolognese.

  • Homemade stock. Instead of adding water, I like adding a bit of homemade turkey or chicken stock to the mix. (There’s an Instant Pot recipe for that, too.)
  • Full-flavored olives. A lot of bolognese sauces call for fatty pork, like pancetta or sausage. The richness and saltiness of pork adds a ton of flavor to the sauce. Since the purpose of making a turkey bolognese is to lighten things up and have a heart-healthy option, I omitted the pork and replaced it with full-flavored olives. The olives are chopped up so they go unnoticed. They’re really just there to lend their salty, buttery flavor. If you prefer the pork, go for it. We’ve still replaced the beef with turkey, so we’re still doing all right as far as making this leaner.
  • Generous tomato paste. A little tomato paste goes a long way, but since we’re cooking this recipe quickly, I like to be a bit extra with it so we can get that all-day simmer sauce flavor.
  • Parmesan rind. I keep and freeze my parmesan rinds specifically for from-scratch sauces. They add richness, flavor, and a certain oumph.
  • Red wine. I like to use a dry red in my bolognese. I figure, if I’m going to drink red with a dish, I’m going to use red in that dish if it calls for wine. There’s a bolder, deeper flavor there. But if you prefer white, you can totally use it.

Side close up shot of bay leaves and parmesan rind in bolognese sauce in Instant Pot.

How to make Instant Pot Bolognese with Ground Turkey.

The Instant Pot truly simplifies everything. To the point where a random weeknight craving for bolognese can be fulfilled.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Ground turkey
  • Full-flavored olives, like castelvetrano olives
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Garlic cloves
  • Tomato paste
  • Red wine
  • Chicken stock
  • Can of San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed
  • Can of tomato puree
  • Fresh oregano and parsley
  • Bay leaves
  • Parmesan rind (optional)
  • Nutmeg (optional)
  • Whole milk

Close up of bowl of rigatoni topped with bolognese and fresh parsley.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Heat olive oil in the Instant Pot with the sauté function on. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until they’re soft, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey and chopped olives to the Instant Pot; season with salt and cracked black pepper. Break up the ground turkey with a spatula as it cooks; let it simmer until the meat is cooked and most of the juices have evaporated.
  3. Add the garlic and tomato paste to the Instant Pot, and cook for about a minute, stirring to combine. While stirring, at the red wine. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, or until most of the wine has evaporated.
  4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato purée, stock, and fresh herbs. Drop the bay leaves and parmesan rind into the sauce. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the sauté function.
  5. Lock the lid onto Instant pot, set the valve to the sealing position, and set to cook at HIGH pressure for 20 minutes.
  6. When done, and the Instant Pot starts to beep, do a quick release. Once all of the steam is released, carefully unlock and open the lid. Switch the Instant Pot to the sauté function again and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let it go, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened to your preferred consistency.
  7. Stir in the milk, more fresh herbs, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Side shot of bowl of rigatoni topped with turkey bolognese.

Can you freeze Instant Pot Bolognese sauce?

Yes! This makes a rather large batch, which is awesome, because you can freeze a bunch for later use. Just place it in an air-tight container and put it in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Hope you love it!

If you plan on making this recipe, be sure to snap a pic and tag us on Insta! @killing__thyme.

Other tasty recipes that use ground turkey:

Instant Pot Bolognese with Ground Turkey

This quick Instant Pot Bolognese lightens things up by using ground turkey while still bringing a ton of flavor to your pasta.
Servings 8 servings
Author Dana Sandonato

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 4 oz chopped full-flavored olives (like castelvetrano olives) You could also use 4 oz of pancetta or diced bacon, if you prefer *See notes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock Preferably homemade
  • 1 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 inch knob of parm/rind (optional) *See notes
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, with juice
  • 28 oz can of tomato puree

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in the Instant Pot with the sauté function on. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until they're soft, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the ground turkey and chopped olives to the Instant Pot; season with salt and cracked black pepper. Break up the ground turkey with a spatula as it cooks; let it simmer until the meat is cooked and most of the juices have evaporated.
  • Add the garlic and tomato paste to the Instant Pot, and cook for about a minute, stirring to combine. While stirring, at the red wine. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, or until most of the wine has evaporated.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato purée, stock, and fresh herbs. Drop the bay leaves and parmesan rind into the sauce. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the sauté function.
  • Lock the lid onto Instant pot, set the valve to the sealing position, and set to cook at HIGH pressure for 20 minutes.
  • When done, and the Instant Pot starts to beep, do a quick release. Once all of the steam is released, carefully unlock and open the lid. Switch the Instant Pot to the sauté function again and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let it go, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened to your preferred consistency.
  • Stir in the milk, more fresh herbs, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Notes

*Full-flavored olives. A lot of bolognese sauces call for fatty pork, like pancetta or sausage. The richness and saltiness of pork adds a ton of flavor to the sauce. Since the purpose of making a turkey bolognese is to lighten things up and have a heart-healthy option, I omitted the pork and replaced it with full-flavored olives. The olives are chopped up so they go unnoticed. They're really just there to lend their salty, buttery flavor. If you prefer the pork, go for it. We've still replaced the beef with turkey, so we're still doing all right as far as making this leaner.
*Parmesan rind. I keep and freeze my parmesan rinds specifically for from-scratch sauces. They add richness, flavor, and a certain oumph.

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