Ragu alla Bolognese, originating from the Bologna region of Italy, is a traditional meat-based sauce typically served with pasta. While it’s never a bad thing to stick to the classics, recipe developer Taylor Murray has put a few twists on this dish that make this turkey Bolognese bianco recipe special and tasty in its own right.
First, let’s start with the meat. While ragu alla Bolognese is usually made with beef, veal, or pork, this version uses ground turkey — a meat known for its lower fat content and versatility, which lends itself perfectly to this Italian staple. Murray’s version of this dish highlights the turkey’s lean quality while maintaining the rich, slow-cooked flavor that Bolognese is celebrated for.
Instead of the classic tomato base, this ‘Bianco’ (“white” in Italian) version is made without tomatoes, relying on white wine, chicken broth, and Parmesan for its distinctive flavor and creamy texture. Murray also incorporates Italian broccoli rabe to add a nice vegetable element brimming with classic Italian flavor.
Anyone can make a quick, cheap pasta dish with a handful of ingredients. The secret to making a healthy yet delicious meal of famously dry ground turkey is to make sure you are bolstering the flavor with plenty of aromatics and additions. For this turkey bolognese bianco, choose a tube-shaped pasta like rigatoni. This pasta shape is perfect for filling with the delicious sauce. The ground turkey is pretty standard and can be found at any grocery store. The last main ingredient is broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is a cousin of broccoli and common in Italian cooking. It has a pleasant bitterness, though some prefer to cook that bitterness out. If you really don’t like that flavor and need to make a substitute, broccolini or just plain broccoli would work well.
In addition to the main ingredients, you’ll need some white wine for deglazing your pan, a good quality chicken broth (homemade is preferable), a shallot, a few cloves of garlic, Parmesan cheese, butter, red chile flakes, chives, parsley, and a little vegetable oil to get things going.
Heat a large salted pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta per package directions. When three minutes remain, add the chopped broccoli rabe. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Meanwhile, add the vegetable oil to a saute pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and allow it to caramelize on one side before stirring. “One of the main problems people have with ground turkey is that it can be bland. We want to encourage as much browning as possible because this will translate to flavor in the final dish,” says Murray. Once some browning has occurred, break up the turkey into small pieces and continue to stir it until every piece is opaque and cooked through.
When the turkey has browned, add in the shallot and garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the white wine, and stir to pick up any stuck-on brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the wine simmer until it becomes syrupy and is reduced to a couple of tablespoons.
Add the chicken stock and chili flakes. Let reduce until only about ¼ cup of liquid remains. Fold the strained pasta into the sauce and turkey.
Now it’s time to incorprate some of the finishing touches to this dish. Fold in the butter and cheese. Once that’s fully incorporated, add the lemon zest, chives, and parsley.
Plate the pasta, sprinkling with additional cheese if desired. The pasta will taste the best fresh out of the pan, but will also keep covered in the refrigerator for five days. Freezing is not recommended. This dish is a complete meal on its own, though it would be excellent with a hunk of crusty bread and a nice chilled glass of white wine.