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This quick Instant Pot Bolognese Sauce With Turkey lightens things while still bringing a ton of flavor to your pasta!

Overhead shot of bowl of rigatoni topped with turkey bolognese.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This crave-worthy bolognese sauce with turkey gives you stick-to-your-rib goodness, but with a leaner twist. Despite having a lower fat content, this sauce is incredibly flavorful, making it the perfect sauce to smother over a nice fat chewy pasta like pappardelle pasta, or lasagna with ground turkey.

To add to that, this sauce is made in the Instant Pot, cutting the usual stove top simmer time spent with a bolognese sauce in more than half.

A cozy Sunday dinner made easy!

What Is Bolognese Sauce?

A lot of people wonder what bolognese sauce is, exactly, and how it’s different from a meat sauce.

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.

Though bolognese is technically a meat sauce, it’s set apart by the fact that it has a much higher meat-to-tomato ratio, so it’s a lot thicker. It’s also richer, thanks to the addition of milk. And when serving bolognese, you’ll want large, flat, and sturdy noodles—like tagliatelle or pappardelle. Spaghetti wouldn’t be ideal, but you could use it.

What to Serve With It

  • As stated above, we love serving this over fat chewy noodles—long or tube-shaped, like rigatoni—or a hearty lasagna.
  • On the side, a fresh and colorful Caprese salad is a great way to add veggies and cut through the richness of this sauce.
  • Side salads are a given, of course. Try my simple side salad, or go for a tangy Caesar salad with my homeade Caesar dressing!

Quick Tip

Freeze Parmesan rinds when you’re near done with your Parmesan cheese. Adding a rind to soups and sauces enhances flavor and richness. This is a great recipe to use one in!

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

Ingredients

  • Olive oil.
  • Yellow onion. I like using a yellow onion for its sweetness, but you can use white or red.
  • Veggies. Carrots and celery are the traditional vegetables used in a bolognese sauce, so I just stuck with those. Mushrooms would also be great! Note on the carrots, I prefer them grated rather than diced since they blend in with the sauce better, but it’s up to you.
  • Ground turkey. For a bolognese sauce with turkey, I go for a 93/7 blend. But because the ground turkey is being cooked in sauce, you could totally get away with a fat-free variety if needed. The meat will sauce up all that sauce so there’s no risk of dries out meat.
  • Olives. Diced full-flavored olives, like castelvetrano olives, replace the usual pancetta or bacon. They bring the saltiness while helping us keep things on the leaner side. If olives aren’t your thing, you can omit them. Anchovies would be another option—they do wonders in a puttanesca sauce!
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper.
  • Garlic cloves. Believe it or not, traditional bolognese doesn’t use garlic! But I can’t imagine pasta sauce without it, so here we are. Grated or minced is just fine.
  • Tomato paste. Tomato paste enhances the tomato-y flavor and richness of the sauce.
  • Red wine. Use a nice medium-bodied red, like pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, or merlot.
  • Chicken stock. For flavor and volume.
  • Crushed tomatoes. I like to use San Marzano if they’re certified D.O.P. Otherwise you’re paying a San Marzano price for knock off tomatoes. Any tomatoes will work, true San Marzano just bring a lovely flavor. If you can only find plum, you can crush them with your hands.
  • Tomato puree.
  • Fresh herbs. Oregano and parsley add the perfect touch of freshness to homemade pasta sauce.
  • Bay leaves. Adds a nice and subtle herbaceousness.
  • Parmesan rind. This is optional, but adding a parmesan rind to a homemade sauce creates an awesome rich and creamy flavor.
  • Nutmeg. Also optional, but just a bit of nutmeg truly takes a bolognese sauce over the top giving it a rich, nutty, warming flavor. You won’t taste the spice itself, don’t worry.
  • Milk. Whole milk, or even cream is best. Don’t go for low-fat or skim products here. You want the richness.
Overhead shot of Instant Pot

How to Make Instant Pot Bolognese

  1. With the sauté (medium or low) function on, heat the olive oil in the Instant Pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté until they’re soft—about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey and olives to the pot and hit everything with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, break up the ground turkey as it cooks. Simmer until the meat is partially cooked and most of the juices have evaporated.
  3. Toss in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for about a minute, stirring thoroughly to mix. While you’re stirring, slowly pour in the red wine. Let this all simmer for another 2-3 minutes or until most of the wine has evaporated.
  4. Finally, stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato purée, chicken stock, and fresh herbs. Add the bay leaves and parmesan rind to the sauce and bring everything to a simmer. Turn off sauté mode.
  5. Lock the lid onto the Instant pot, set the valve to the sealing position, and set to cook at HIGH pressure for 20 minutes.
  6. When it’s and the Instant Pot starts to beep, do a quick release. When all of the steam has released, carefully open the lid and switch the Instant Pot to the sauté (medium or low) function again and bring the sauce to a simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Stir often, until the sauce has thickened to your preferred consistency.
  7. Stir in the milk, some more fresh herbs, and a pinch of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Close up of bowl of rigatoni topped with bolognese and fresh parsley.

Storage, Freezing, & Reheating

  • Bolognese sauce with turkey will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • You can freeze this sauce! Which is great, because it makes a big batch. Pop it into a freezer-friendly container or into gallon-sized zip-top bags and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, transfer it to the fridge overnight the day before you plan to cook it.
  • To reheat this sauce, simply pop it into a sauce pan and heat on medium-low until it’s warmed throughout. Stir often to prevent burning at the bottom of the pan.
Side shot of bowl of rigatoni topped with turkey bolognese.

Other Awesome Ground Turkey Recipes to Make

Have You Made This Recipe?

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5 from 8 votes

Instant Pot Bolognese with Ground Turkey

This quick Instant Pot Bolognese Sauce With Turkey lightens things while still bringing a ton of flavor to your pasta!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
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Equipment

  • Instant Pot

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

Be sure to check the post for tips, serving ideas, and storage suggestions!
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18 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Talk about delicious!?!! In the instant pot also made it so easy for me to make after work. Thank you for this awesome one. I’ve been recommending your recipes to my friends and family, they are all SO good! 

  2. 5 stars
    This sauce was just as good as your pictures look! It has so much flavor, and so easy to make. My whole family was raving about it.

  3. 5 stars
    This bolognese was hearty and fabulous. Love the use of ground turkey in it. Much healthier than other types of protein.

  4. Quick silly question: perhaps it’s for photo representation, but how would you get the pasta tubes in your picture already ‘red’ like they are tossed in sauce? Is that something you normally do? Thanks,

    1. Hi Will! Not a silly question at all! So as a personal preference, I always toss my noodles in a bit of the pasta sauce, and then serve with sauce on the side so people can add their preferred amount of sauce. It’s nice noodle-coverage assurance, haha.

    1. You could technically use any pasta with this sauce, but with a bolognese, I like to use heartier noodles like rigatoni, penne, or if you want a long noodle, pappardelle or fettuccini. As for how much pasta, this recipe leaves you with approximately 8 servings. So with the “rule” of serving 2 oz of pasta per person, 1 lb of pasta should do, but it really depends on how much sauce you want per serving, etc., and that’s if you’re following the 2oz per person rule (I’m pretty sure I can eat more than 2 oz of pasta in one sitting, lol.) But, that should give you an idea at least. This sauce also goes super well with lasagna. I have a recipe here that we really love. I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes, Tommy!

  5. ACK! NO! This was NOT the recipe I tried! Please moderate and remove my comment and 3 stars! This is the recipe I pulled up to try NEXT! I’m so sorry.