Lighter Bolognese


When I moved to Berlin I didn't know I would fall in love... in love with the city, the easy-going lifestyle, the language, and most importantly the people. But I did! I fell in love with all of that and a man whom I can't believe I lived all my life without until now. He, however, is nothing like me when it comes to food. He does not appreciate the fine art of building a recipe, of the mixture of textures in a meal, or the blend of spices that create a unique experience. He's a "meat and potatoes" kind of man which I love but I can't (for my own sanity, body, and love of food) only eat red meat and potatoes cooked in a variety of ways. But I digress. 

When we first started dating I was learning what he liked, what he didn't like, what I could feed him that he would enjoy. Let me just say... it's limited haha. Finally, I asked "What the hell is your favorite dish?!" and he says "Bolognese". AHA YAY I finally found something I'm great at cooking, that he would love, I would love, and better than anything something I could alter and play with until I created "my favorite bolognese." 

Now, as a I said before my guy is lacking a sophisticated palate. He's particular about vegetables, spices, and sauces... so to start my bolognese culinary adventure I started with the very traditional style. Red meats, soffritto (onion, celery, carrot), a little tomato, a little milk, and salt and pepper. The traditional bolognese is polite and respectful in taste, easy to make, and delicious. It's minimal, and I LOVE minimal. 

However, I also aim to be healthy and therefore a full red meat, veg light meal isn't on my weekly menu. So I've worked to create a meat-dense sauce that's heavy in vegetables, healthy but still heart-warming and flavorful. The recipe below is officially my go-to bolognese, it's been approved by my picky other half, and is packed with vegetables and flavor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :) 



Lighter Bolognese 

Feeds: 3-5 people 

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 1 hour 

* = side note or tip at bottom of page

Ingredients: (if you want to save some --- double everything below and freeze what you don't eat) 

1lb ground turkey breast 

1 lb garlic and herb ground pork (or any ground pork) 

1/2 red bell diced 

1 carrot diced 

1/2 white onion diced 

5 mushrooms diced

1 garlic clove diced

1 tomato diced 

1 can diced tomatoes 

1 can tomato sauce 

2 tbsp olive oil (1 for cooking veggies and meat, and 1 for shine and added flavor)

1 tsp onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, dried rosemary, dried oregano 

Salt to taste 

2 tbsp fresh chopped basil (1 added into the sauce while cooking and 1 as garnish) 

For the noodles, choose any type of noodle that makes YOU happy. I don't believe in being overly picky about noodle type and this sauce is delicious on anything (I even eat it completely alone a lot #lowcarbs) 




(I like to prep all my ingredients in a fully clean kitchen before cooking anything -- it makes cooking less hectic and easier to clean up. )

  • Start by dicing all your vegetables (onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, carrot, tomato, garlic, and basil) and set them aside. I put the garlic and basil separate from the other vegetables because they are added at a different point in the cooking process. 
  • Pull all your spices/oils out so you don't have to seek these out at a crucial moment
  • Open your can of tomatoes and tomato sauce and set aside (so you don't accidentally knock it over... yup I've done that!) 


Pull out a dutch oven or large pot and place it on your stove, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and heat it up to medium-high heat.

Once the oil is hot*, add your meat! Add both your pork and ground turkey and let cook for about 10 mins. Break the meat up using a wooden spoon. You can make the chunks as big or as small as you prefer, I generally break it up quite a bit because I don't like huge chunks of meat. Add a pinch of salt*.  

Once the meat is almost fully cooked (meaning, it might still be a little red and undercooked), reduce the heat to medium-low and add all the vegetables EXCEPT the garlic and fresh basil. Stir the vegetables into the meat and let simmer and stirring occasionally until the onions become translucent and the bell peppers are soft. Add a pinch of salt. 

Add the garlic and fresh basil, mix together and then add both the can of tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir everything together. Add another pinch of salt. 

Once everything is thoroughly mixed together give it taste test! You might notice I "add a pinch of salt" at every step, this is because I like to add a little flavor at every point and it's nice to let the salt really cook into the vegetables, meat, and sauce. You'll most likely taste a lot of tomato-flavor and less salt and that's ok! You can always add more salt but once you over-salt it's hard to fix. 

Add all the dried spices (and more salt if you want), stir into sauce and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 mins before tasting it. This will allow the spices to release their flavor into the sauce which is crucial before tasting or you'll feel the need to add even more when it's most likely unnecessary. 

If the sauce is to your liking, reduce the heat to a low and let it continue to cook for another 30-40 mins before serving. Stir when you pass by the kitchen or want to sneak a taste (which I do... about every 10 mins haha). 

About 10 mins before the sauce is done, start boiling your water for the noodles. Cook the noodles to al dente (follow the box instructions).  Like I said in the ingredients section, don't worry about kind of noodles because this is your dish for your consumption and enjoyment and that means whatever noodle (spaghetti, rigatoni, penne, parpadelle...etc) is up to you! Traditionally you would use Tagliatelle but this isn't traditional so you do you. I may not care about your choice of noodle but I do care that you add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of olive oil to the water it's cooking in. This adds flavor and keeps them from sticking together so don't forget it! 

Once your noodles are ready, the sauce will be done and ready to enjoy! 



Add a pinch of salt -- people have a tendency to not understand what a "pinch" is. My method is to pour about a tsp salt into the palm of my hand and use my forefinger and thumb to "pinch" some of that salt out and sprinkle it over the food in the pot. You can add multiple pinches of salt at one moment but really the point of this is to avoid over salting!