Drunken Ground Turkey Bolognese with Zucchini Pappardelle


My husband and I had the joy of celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary at the end of March in the beautiful country of Argentina. For 7 days, we toured around Buenos Aires, visited various neighborhoods, ate at some truly amazing restaurants, explored the culture through a few guided city tours and drank bottle after bottle of incredible Argentine wine. After a week of indulging, despite how delicious it was, our bodies were ready for a break from all the heavy cuisine.

The Monday after our return, I sat down and thought about all of the food we ate. And while I have EVERY intention of reproducing some of those experiences down the road, I wanted to go in a different direction with the next few dishes I was planning to make. And so the mental gears starting turning, and one of the results of that brainstorming session is this dish I share with you today.

Ready to take a break from heavy carbs and beef but not so ready to forego my vino, this recipe for Drunken Ground Turkey Bolognese is a lighter take on what can be a very heavy dish while still packing an incredible flavor punch.

Like with any bolognese, there is wine in this recipe. And all of the accompanying ingredients, including the tomatoes, are fresh, giving your tastebuds every reason to be overjoyed.

You could very well sit down to a bowl of just the bolognese, as I did after I made it. But if you plan on feeding guests and still desire to keep the dish light, the zucchini pappardelle is a step worth taking.

So after your next vacation or for whenever you want to take a break from the heavy foods you’ve been eating, give this recipe a try. It will for sure be something you’ll want to make over and over again!

Drunken Ground Turkey Bolognese with Zucchini Pappardelle

(recipe serving size – 4 to 6 people)

For the veggies:

1 1/2 – 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced (1 1/4 cups)

3-4 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and sliced (1 1/4 cups)

1 medium sweet onion, chopped (2 cups)

10 plum tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the tomatoes into the boiling water and boil for about 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes from the water and place them into a bowl. Once they have cooled enough to handle, peel off the skin and remove any remnants of the stem.

Coat the bottom of a high-sided sauté pan or pot with the olive oil and warm over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and carrots to the oil. Season with the salt and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 20 minutes until softened and lightly caramelized. Stir occasionally to keep the veggies from burning.

For the poultry:

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup tomato paste (6 oz)

2 cups red wine (Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon)

1 tsp kosher salt

10-12 basil leaves, whole

Herb bundle (10-15 sprigs of thyme and 2-3 bay leaves tied together)

Add the garlic to the sautéed veggies. Cook for 1 minute. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the ground turkey to the pan and fold the veggies into the poultry as you break up the ground turkey with a spoon. Season with the additional salt and brown for 5 minutes until almost completely cooked.

Fold in the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the wine and the basil and stir to incorporate. Place the whole peeled tomatoes into the pan, submerging them into the wine and ground turkey, add the herb bundle and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour with the lid on.

Finishing the sauce:

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

Crushed red pepper flakes (option for heat)

Remove lid and gently break up the tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer the sauce for another 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened.

For the zucchini pappardelle:

3-4 large zucchinis 

Slice the zucchini lengthwise. Using a potato peeler, run the peeler down the zucchini, creating thin strips.

Bringing it all together:

Parmesan or pecorino romano for garnish

Fresh basil for garnish

Crushed red pepper for additional heat

Toss the zucchini into the bolognese to heat through for about 1 minute. Place a heaping amount into a bowl. Top it with additional bolognese and the optional garnishes. Serve while warm.

Creative liberties:

There are quite a few fresh ingredients in this dish. The two standouts are the tomatoes and the zucchini, and both have a number of ways in which you can prepare them.

  • When preparing the tomatoes: feel free to score them with a knife and de-stemming them before dropping them in the water. This will make it even easier for you when getting them ready for the sauce.
  • When preparing the zucchini: because there is a lot of water that is given off by this vegetable, you can blanch the sliced zucchini first for a minute or two in boiling salted water and place the strips in an ice bath to keep them from cooking too much. This will help with keeping the zucchini from giving off too much water once it is tossed with the bolognese. The liquid that is given off in this recipe, however, is DELICIOUS. So this step is not completely necessary.

5 thoughts

    1. You’re so welcome! I am a HUGE pasta fan and fresh pasta will always be my favorite. But I knew I had to figure out a way to eat pasta as often as my stomach demands without the worry of consuming SO many carbs. This was my answer and I am so happy with the result! I’m glad you like the post! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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