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Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Pasta Sauce Recipe

by Jeanette on January 18, 2012 · 53 Comments
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This Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Pasta Sauce is perfect for weeknight meals – make a double recipe and freeze it.

Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Pasta Sauce - this sauce will make your kitchen smell AMAZING...freezes well and is perfect for cool weather dinners

Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Pasta Sauce – this sauce will make your kitchen smell AMAZING…freezes well and is perfect for cool weather dinners

Today I am sharing a recipe for Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Pasta Sauce, a simple, easy meal that can be started in the morning and left to simmer all day long. The best part about this recipe is that it can also be made ahead, and frozen.

My Italian friend tells me she lets her Bolognese Sauce simmer all day long. Traditionally, Bolognese Sauce is made with a variety of ground meat (ground beef, veal, pork). Sometimes milk is also added, and pancetta is used for flavoring. This version that I made uses lean turkey meat, and does not contain any dairy.

Crockpot Turkey Bolognese Sauce Served Over Gluten-Free Pasta

Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Sauce Served Over Gluten-Free Pasta

This is my go-to dinner on a busy day. On days when I know I will be driving the kids around right around dinnertime, I throw this Turkey Bolognese Sauce in the crockpot and let it simmer away. Sometimes I start it in the morning, sometimes not until early afternoon, but one thing is for sure, a hot dinner will be waiting for us when we walk in the door and my boys are starving.  Served over whole grain or gluten-free pasta, and a simple salad, this is an easy, satisfying weeknight dinner.

Although I did saute the vegetables and brown the meat on the stove before putting it in the crockpot, I think it’s well worth the extra effort for maximum flavor. Sometimes crockpot recipes can be bland (I’ve made a meat sauce in the crockpot without any browning and was sorely disappointed), so I would definitely suggest this extra step, you won’t be disappointed.

5 from 1 reviews
Slow Cooker Turkey Pasta Sauce Recipe
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups strained tomatoes, tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a few sprigs fresh basil (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  1. Heat oil in a large saute pan on medium. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink, breaking up pieces.
  3. Add red wine and continue cooking until there is no more liquid in the pan.
  4. Spoon meat into crockpot. Add thyme, bay leaf, tomatoes, salt and pepper.
  5. Cook for 4-6 hours.
  6. Add fresh basil sprigs half an hour before serving.
  7. Serve with your favorite cooked pasta.

More Crockpot Recipes:
Easy Crockpot Lentil Chili, Jeanette’s Healthy Living
Easy Five-Spice Braised Chicken, Jeanette’s Healthy Living
Turkey Black Bean Chili, Jeanette’s Healthy Living
Slow Cooker Green Chile Chicken, The Perfect Pantry
Sweet and Spicy Ground Turkey and Sweet Potato Stew with Coconut Milk, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Vegetarian Stew with Quinoa , Butternut Squash & Coconut Milk, Cookin’ Canuck
Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker, The Little Kitchen

This post has been linked up to Basilmomma’s Budget and Freezer Meal Link Up.

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  1. Yes. Will be doing this.

  2. ahhh i love crock pot recipes. the flavors get so rich and delicious. you are right, browning it on the stove will definitely bring out the flavors! btw, you have such good mom tips, i love it. :)

    • Thanks Junia you’re sweet – yes, the extra step of browning the vegetables and meat on the stovetop is definitely worth it.

  3. Such a perfect looking meal! Yum…spaghetti and bolognese sauce. I love that this recipe uses turkey! And the ease of making it in the crock pot!

    • It’s definitely comfort food and one of the kids favorites. I’ve been using my crockpot a lot this winter – makes dinnertime so much easier.

  4. One of my husband’s favorite sauces is Bologese. Love this! I also make mine dairy free but usually finish off with splash of soy creamer. Good Luck with the contest!

    • Alyssa, I’ve never tried soy creamer as a dairy-free alternative but I’ve seen it used in a number of dairy-free recipes. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What size slow cooker do you use for this quantity of sauce?

    • Lydia – I think my crockpot is 4-5 quarts. It’s about 25 years old. I only have one, and it seems to be a pretty good size for everything I make.

  6. Crockpots are just the greatest! Your bolognese looks wonderful, and love the photo :)

  7. Jeanette your photo’s are wonderful and this sauce is so thick and yummy looking! BRAVO!

    • Thanks Claudia – that’s what I love about this crockpot recipe…with all the simmering, the sauce turns nice rich and thick.

  8. Jeanette, I love that you made this glorious sauce in the crockpot! That 1/2 of wine must add some great flavor as well :)

  9. I am obsessed with my slow cooker. Use it all the time. I have yet to make sauce in it. This bolognese sauce sounds like a great recipe to make in the slow cooker. Gorgeous pic!

    • Thanks Wendy – isn’t the slow cooker one of the best kitchen appliances?! Mine is about 25 years old and it’s still going.

  10. Jeanette, this turkey Bolognese looks so good. I know a crockpot isn’t a pressure cooker, which I fear, but I do not own a slow cooker, though on my rice cooker it says it is also a slow cooker. Hmmmm

    • I’ve seen combination slow cooker/rice cookers in the stores, so that must be what you have. Sounds like a really fun kitchen appliance to have. I use my slow cooker and rice cooker all the time, making a chili or chicken dish in the slow cooker, and a grain in the rice cooker. Both keep dinner warm perfectly.

  11. I don’t have a crockpot but I’d imagine this works just as well on a slow simmer in a regular heavy bottomed pot? Tomato based sauces are so rich and flavorful when cooked all day. I have fond memories of spaghetti sauce cooking all afternoon until the tomatoes turned a rich dark color. What a nice idea to use ground turkey to “lighten” things up. It looks absolutely stunning.

  12. Now this recipe is a great way to use one’s crockpot, Jeanette! That meal looks divine! :-)


    • Thanks Shirley – I love my crockpot and use it several times each week. This is one of my favorites to make in it.

  13. looks delicious and I LOVE your photos!!!

  14. Hi Jeanette,
    I am looking for a crockpot. Which would you recommend? Also, it seems you do leave the crockpot on all day and leave the house. I am so afraid of dig that..am I just being paranoid…it’s been years since I’ve had anything to do with crockpots so I may be way behind the times in terms of safety. :)

  15. I’ve never heard of making bolognese sauce in a crockpot, although now that I think about it, the method does lend itself very well.

    That pic is food magazine-worthy, btw.

    • Thank you for your nice comment. Basically, anything that improves with long slow cooking is worth trying in a crockpot.

  16. I can’t wait to try this, Jeanette. I recently found a container of bolognese I’d frozen a few months ago and forgotten about – really came in handy when I had nothing the house for dinner! This stuff freezes so well.

  17. Thank you for your gluten free recipes! I am new to this and love everything I have tried so far. I made this on Saturday and it was a big hit (even for my vegetable hating husband)! Only problem is serving size, this pasta sauce will not serve 6-8 adults. I had 5 for dinner and there were no leftovers. Needs to be doubled!

    • Thanks for your feedback Darby – so glad you have been enjoying some of my recipes. These are all recipes I’ve made for my family that everyone has enjoyed. This recipe is a great way to add in extra vegetables – they’re so small you can’t even taste them. This recipe was enough for our family plus leftovers, but every family is different, so thanks for sharing. This sauce freezes well so doubling the recipe would be a good idea anyway 😉

  18. Mmmmm this looks delicious. I might have to make it with chicken though because it isn’t easy to get hold of turkey where I live.

    • Hi Nevine – hope you have a chance to try this, I’m making it for dinner tonight. Chicken will work perfectly in place of turkey.

  19. Jenni MacArthur says:

    It is terrific that this is done with Turkey for families like mine who need to watch their cholesterol! Thanks for great recipe!

  20. Gina Randall says:

    Do you cook it on low or high?

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Gina, I have a really old crockpot that has temperature settings, so I set it at around 300 degrees so I would say cook it on low. The meat is already cooked when you put it into the crockpot, but the long simmer gives the sauce lots of flavor.

  21. I made this on Sunday night and have eaten it 4x already! It is incredible. Thank you for such a great recipe. I served it with roasted spaghetti squash.

    • Hi Sarah – thank you so much for your feedback. I always love hearing back from readers who try my recipes. Great idea serving it on top of roasted spaghetti squash!

  22. Thanks for the great tip about browning first. Your are so right, crockpot recipes can be a little bland at times.

  23. Lauren Hamilton says:

    I am making this today , perfect for a snowy day stuck inside. Just wondering what the nutrional info is-as in how many calories per serving?

    • Hi Lauren, I did not calculate the calories per serving for this recipe, but will try to report it back here. Thanks for trying this popular family recipe.

  24. I would not have guessed such simple ingredients could taste so rich. This meal was easy and delicious, perfect for a busy weekday!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks for your feedback Lena – so glad you tried this and liked it. It’s one of my go-to recipes for busy weeknights.

  25. Jeanette, I’d like to double this recipe for my son and his hungry friend, do you know how that alters the cooking time?


    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Hi Lena, I don’t think the cooking time should change that much. The important thing is to make sure the meat is cooked; the rest of the time is to infuse the sauce with flavor, so it’s flexible. This also can be frozen if you make a bigger batch.

  26. Hi Jeanette!
    I don’t have any red wine in the house but have all of the other ingredients. Could I do without and if so, what would I use instead? I just don’t want to compromise flavor. :) So, if it is essential, let me know! 😉

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      LeNay, red wine adds nice depth of flavor. If you don’t have any, you could try adding a few tablespoons of tomato paste (I would brown the turkey first, then add the tomato paste and toast it a little for more flavor). You could also add some finely chopped mushrooms and saute them with the ground turkey. It will add more flavor too.

  27. Such a hearty and healthy meal. Making it in a Crockpot would intensify the flavors right?..I don’t have one and I need to get one soon…

    • Thanks Ash – you could certainly make it on the stove-top and let it simmer away. I just like the convenience of a crockpot so I don’t have to keep an eye on it.

  28. Thanks for the tip about cooking without the red wine…I’m going to make this recipe tonight for a friend, who for religious reasons, doesn’t consume anything with alcohol. The alternative sounds like it will be just as flavorful!

  29. Can anyone tell me-is this 4-6 hours on high or low? Thanks meghan

    • Hi Meghan,
      The slow cooker I used did not have a high or low setting (it’s really old), but I think it is closer to high.

  30. oh my goodness, this looks amazing!!! Got my slow cooker by the way and can’t wait to use it!!! Thank you!!!

  31. Patrice says:

    I am going to try it with mined chicken. I will let you know the out come

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