This Bolognese Sauce (aka Sunday Sauce) is hearty, robust and full of depth and flavor! Make it in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in an Instant pot. We lighten it up with ground turkey (optional) and add mushrooms for extra umami. 

This hearty Bolognese Sauce is rich and flavorful with a meat sauce so tender, and flavorful, your whole family will love it. To lighten this up we use ground turkey and mushrooms- both are optional! Make this in a slow cooker, on the stovetop, or even in your Instant Pot, your choice!  

Make a big batch, perhaps even a double batch in your crock pot and freeze in smaller portions for quick and easy dinners. Serve with pasta, zucchini noodles, or my favorite, roasted spaghetti squash, keeping it gluten-free.

Bolognese Sauce Ingredients

  • Ground meat: This recipe uses ground turkey as a lean and healthy substitute for traditional ground beef or pork. Feel free to use ground beef, pork, lamb, veal or a combo.
  • Onion and Garlic: Adds flavor, depth and aroma to the sauce.
  • Olive oil: Used for sautéing the ground turkey and onion.
  • Carrots: Provide natural sweetness and texture to the sauce.
  • Celery: Adds flavor and crunch to the sauce.
  • Mushrooms: Enhances the umami and depth of flavor in the bolognese. We use mushrooms instead of pancetta here!
  • Spices: salt, black pepper, bay and oregano.
  • Tomato paste: Gives the sauce depth and richness.
  • Red wine: Adds complexity and depth to the sauce- feel free to sub chicken broth or beef broth and a tiny splash of balsamic.
  • Canned tomatoes: Whole canned tomatoes (mashed) , crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes along with their juice form the base of the sauce.
  • Soy sauce: as strange as it seems, it adds depth and enhances the umami flavor in the sauce. Give it a try!
  • Parmesan rind (optional): Adds extra depth and richness to the sauce.
  • Garnishes: parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese, basil or parsley

These ingredients work together to create a hearty, robust, and flavorful bolognese sauce.

ingredients cooking in a dutch oven.

Slow Cooker Bolognese Instructions

  1. In a very large Dutch oven ( over medium-high heat) or using the saute function of a slow cooker, saute the ground meat and onion in the olive oil, for 7-9 minutes until lightly browned.  If there is a lot of liquid, drain. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Continue sauteing and stirring cooking the veggies until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add all the spices and salt.
  3.  Make a well in the pan and add tomato paste, saute it for 1-2 minutes, which will give the sauce depth. Mix it all together then add the wine, scraping up all the brown bits.
  4. Let simmer on medium heat until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with the metal spatula. Stir in the soy sauce. Toss in the parmesan rind (optional) to add even more depth and a bay leaf.
  5. Place this in a slow cooker on its lowest setting for 6 hours (or medium heat for 3 hours). Adjust seasonings, add more salt to taste, discard parmesan rind and bay leaf.
  6. *Alternately, you can continue to simmer in the dutch oven on the stovetop, covered, for 1-2 hours, on the lowest heat, adding chicken stock if necessary (if it gets too dry) or uncovering, and cooking off liquid if it seems too liquidy. Taste and adjust salt to your liking. See notes for Instant pot!
This Bolognese Sauce (aka Sunday Sauce) is hearty, robust and full of depth and flavor! Make it in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in an Instant pot. We lighten it up with ground turkey (optional) and add mushrooms for extra umami. 

Expert Tips

  • Browning the onions, meat and mushrooms gives this bolognese added flavor and depth.
  • Saute the tomato paste until it deepens in color, also giving depth.
  • For extra depth of flavor, add a little soy sauce or, (as weird as it seems) a splash of fish sauce, or a parmesan rind.
This Bolognese Sauce (aka Sunday Sauce) is hearty, robust and full of depth and flavor! Make it in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in an Instant pot. We lighten it up with ground turkey (optional) and add mushrooms for extra umami. 

Ways to Serve Bolognese Sauce

Serve over pasta with fresh grated pecorino cheese and fresh Italian parsley.

  • Spaghetti Bolognese is traditional! Or serve over any other pasta.
  • Use as the filling for lasagna
  • Over roasted  Spaghetti Squash
  • Over Zucchini Noodles
  • Over a baked potato!
This Bolognese Sauce (aka Sunday Sauce) is hearty, robust and full of depth and flavor! Make it in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in an Instant pot. We lighten it up with ground turkey (optional) and add mushrooms for extra umami. 

Bolognese Sauce Storage

Store leftover Bolognese Sauce in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

A simple, healthy recipe for Turkey Mushroom Bolognese, that can be made in an Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or stove top. Flavorful and delicious! | www.feastingathome.com

More recipes you may enjoy!

Hope you enjoy this healthier version of Bolognese! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

xoxo

Sylvia

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This Bolognese Sauce (aka Sunday Sauce) is hearty, robust and full of depth and flavor! Make it in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in an Instant pot. We lighten it up with ground turkey (optional) and add mushrooms for extra umami. 

Bolognese Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine | Feasting at Home Blog
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 mins
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Dinner idea
  • Method: slow cooker, stove top, instant pot
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This Bolognese Sauce (aka Sunday Sauce) is hearty, robust and full of depth and flavor! Make it in a slow cooker, on the stovetop or in an Instant pot. We lighten it up with ground turkey (optional) and add mushrooms for extra umami.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground meat- turkey, beef, lamb, pork or a mix
  • 1 large onion -diced
  • 68 cloves garlic- rough chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms- sliced
  • 2 carrots- diced
  • 2 Celery stalks – diced
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste!
  • 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cup red wine ( or chicken or beef broth)
  • 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marsano (or use crushed or diced)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1Bay leaf
  • Parmesan Rind (optional)

Garnish: Fresh basil ribbons or chopped parsley and grated parmesan or pecorino cheese


Instructions

  1. In a very large dutch oven ( medium-high heat) or saute function of a slow cooker, saute the ground turkey and onion in the olive oil, for 7-9 minutes until lightly browned.  If there is a lot of liquid, drain.
  2. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Continue sauteing and stirring cooking the veggies until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add all the spices and salt.
  4.  Make a well in the pan and add tomato paste, saute it for 1-2 minutes, which will give the sauce depth. Mix it all together then add the wine, scraping up all the brown bits.
  5. Let simmer on medium heat until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with the metal spatula. Stir in the soy sauce. Toss in the parmesan rind (optional) to add even more depth and a bay leaf.
  6. Place this in a slow cooker on its lowest setting for 6 hours (or medium heat for 3 hours). Adjust seasonings, add more salt to taste, discard parmesan rind and bay leaf.
  7. Alternately you can continue to simmer in the dutch oven on the stove, covered, for 1-2 hours, on lowest heat, adding chicken stock if necessary (if it gets too dry) or uncovering, and cooking off liquid, if it seems too liquidy. Taste, adjust salt to your liking.
  8. Serve over cooked pasta, quinoa or roasted spaghetti squash with grated parmesan, sprinkled with fresh basil or Italian parsley.

Notes

 

  • TO MAKE IN AN INSTANT POT  Follow steps 1-5 using the saute function. Then use the meat/stew setting for 35 minutes (or manual LOW pressure for 35 minutes) followed by a natural release for 15 minutes. Cook off the extra liquid, uncovered, on the saute function, stirring often.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 174
  • Sugar: 5.9 g
  • Sodium: 259.6 mg
  • Fat: 7.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.9 g
  • Fiber: 4.1 g
  • Protein: 16.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 48.9 mg

Keywords: Bolognese sauce, slow cooker bolognese, turkey Bolognese, Sunday sauce,

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Comments

  1. I love this recipe ☺️ I don’t make a lot of things more than once but this one I have on rotation. We eat it over chickpea pasta. 👌🏻

    1. Oh good to hear! Love it! thanks for the rating and comment- very appreciated Darragh ❤️

  2. I modified the recipe some and it was delicious. I subbed the fennel seeds for Italian seasoning and once it cooked on the stove I put it in a baking dish with the pasta and covered it with mozarela and parmesan and broiled it. I will be doing this one again!

  3. first recipe of yours that I made that tasted great but did not turn out as directions specified. I made it on my instant pot and followed the with the same ingredients and instructions. It came out a bit watery and maybe I could have reduced it some but instead I decided to add a can of cannellini beans in place of the pasta, added a little fresh basil and it turned into a delicious soup! Great flavors and texture.

    1. Thanks Irene; sorry about that and glad you were able to salvage it! Yes, sounds like some of the liquid needed to cook off. I will note the recipe.

  4. And, as some others have mentioned, my turkey did not brown but there was so much other flavor that it didn’t matter.

  5. This is fantastic! I used 1/8 teas. of nutmeg and diced tomatoes. I’ll make this again and put even a little more fennel seeds- they are so good!

  6. Another fantastic recipe Sylvia! As I had a parmesan rind in the freezer, and was using Worcestershire sauce, I only used a teaspoon of salt, which was enough. I’ve never come across a recipe where you sauté the tomato puree, but will be doing this in other dishes from now on. Thank you.

  7. Wow! Took a chance and made this for a dinner party with all spices recommended, San Marzano tomatoes and anchovies. Topped with fresh herbs from the garden. This was outstanding, thank you!

  8. Hi Sylvia
    I’d like to make this and freeze it for later. Can I take it to step 5 and then freeze for later cooking or, is it better to cook completely and then reheat.
    I’m sure it will be delicious.

  9. Hi Sylvia,
    I have an abundance of tomatoes from my garden. Do you think I could use fresh instead of canned? If so how many and would they need to be peeled first?

    1. I would sub 2 lbs fresh tomatoes (and their juices). If the tomato skin bothers you, you could cut in half, grate all the way down to the peels, leaving them behind? Or could finely dice, leaving the peels on.

  10. The good news is that this was pretty delicious. Lots of depth of flavor. There were several problems with the recipe, though. (1) First instruction is to saute onion and turkey in olive oil — but there is no olive oil in the list of ingredients. (I used about 2 Tbsp.). (2) I used a large pot on the stovetop to make the recipe. The recipe doesn’t tell you what temperature to set the stove at. (I started at medium, then realized it was going to take forever for anything to happen, so I set it to high. (3) Second ingredient is an onion: A small onion? A medium onion? A large onion? (I used a large-ish onion.) (4) Even at a high heat setting, it doesn’t take 3 minutes for the turkey to brown — it takes more like 12 minutes. Adjust your timing accordingly! (5) I used 93% lean ground turkey, and there was plenty of liquid in the bottom of the pot after the first step. I poured off the liquid — and after sauteing the vegetables, it was time to “fry” the tomato paste. But I had the same experience as another reader: there was a fair amount of liquid in the bottom of the pot, so it was more like braising the tomato paste than frying it. (6) Step 4 says to simmer until the wine is reduced — but reduced by how much? Till it disappears? Till you have half the volume you started with? (I got it down to about 1/4 of the original volume of wine.) (7) The recipe tells you what to do if the bolognese gets too dry. I had just the opposite problem. There was lots of liquid in the pot — my recipe wasn’t going to turn out anything like the pictures above — so I turned up the heat and cooked the bolognese uncovered for the last half hour, trying to boil off some of the liquid. I was only partially successful.

    So, lots of problems with the recipe and with the timing, but the end product was very good.

    1. Appreciate your notes. I adjusted the recipe to make it more clear. Sorry about that. This started off as a slow cooker recipe, that morphed into a stove-top recipe, but I see how it needed a little more direction. Glad you were able to adjust and come up with something tasty.

  11. Turkey and onions together won’t brown for me; I need to brown them separately. Should I brown the turkey or the onions first? Do I remove one from the pan to brown the other? Thanks for the tips!

    1. Is your turkey kind of watery? Yes, you can do them separately, I’d do the onions first, then turkey.

  12. A great sauce! Could you suggest a substitute for the fennel? I’d love to make it again but the kids didn’t care for the fennel.

  13. Mushrooms, unless I sauté/fry them in a pan, always turn out rubbery for me whenever I add them to a recipe. Am I doing something wrong? Using the wrong kind (Asian mushrooms)? Thank you.

  14. I had some turkey and mushrooms so I googled it, and found this recipe! I was impressed at the intentional ingredients to create that umami flavor. I’m sure it would have come out fantastic, but unfortunately it turned out to be incredibly salty. I felt like 2.5 tsp of salt was kind of a lot with the soy sauce but I followed the seasoning measurements to a T for once. Ultimately it turned out so salty that I had to add a bunch of half n half, more tomato, a teaspoon of sugar, and then made a slurry with cornstarch to thicken it back up. Even with all that, still a bit too salty for my taste. I can’t imagine what went wrong unless my taste buds went awry since no one else seems to have had the same experience. The only thing I did differently was add a quarter pound of ground lamb because I only had a pound of Turkey. I also used a prechopped mirapeaux so it may have had a few less veggies. Otherwise, I know this is a great recipe and it really did taste good once I was able to tone down the salt. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board – but just in case I’m not crazy, I recommend adding salt as needed since the meat is cooked by the time it’s ready to season. Will update when I try again.

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