Hearty Turkey Bolognese

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Lovely Nerdship, let’s be honest – this winter has been BRUTAL.  And it seems like those of us living in the Upper Midwest just keep getting backhanded over and over again with polar vortices, negative wind chill temperatures in the double digits, and snow every other day.  Seriously – I’ve been wearing snow boots every day for the last two and a half months except for when I was home for Christmas.  I went out to work this week in no less than four layers.  Thank Merlin for my extra warm wool Slytherin scarf and hat.
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Weather like this always makes me crave comfort food and for a good Italian girl like me, that means pasta with meat sauce.  My mother makes, in my humble opinion, the best sauce in the world.  It’s a recipe passed down from my father’s family – when my parents got married oh-so-many moons ago, my mother couldn’t cook anything.  The first time she tried to make my father breakfast, she burned a boiled egg.  So, my full-blooded Italian paternal grandmother, Irene, took my mother under her wing and taught her everything she knew.

This sauce is not exactly our family recipe, because if I told you that, I’d have to kill you and figure out where to hide the bodies and since Lake Michigan is frozen over right now, that would be a lot of extra work.  Instead, this is a lighter, less complicated version in a smaller batch that’s perfect for at least three to four meals.  It’s also easily doubled, so you could eat half and freeze half for later.

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Hearty Turkey Bolognese

Makes roughly 8 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium-sized white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • ½ tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water
  • 1 cup chicken stock, regular or low sodium stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz.), regular or low sodium
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:

First, break your dried mushrooms up and get them into a small bowl.  Cover them with hot – not boiling – water and set them aside.  You should be able to find porcini mushrooms at any Italian grocery.  I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods and I got mine at The Spice House in Chicago.

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Next, chop your onion and your basil.  I did that thing where I rolled the basil leaves like I always see on the Food Network and I felt like quite a professional there for about 30 seconds.  It was awesome.

In a deep pot, pour 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, roughly 3-4 turns of the pan. It should cover the entire bottom of the pan.

Add in the turkey and, using a spoon, break up the meat into small pieces.  Cover the meat with the dried Italian Seasoning.  Man, this is always my least favorite part.  Something about ground meat, whether it’s turkey, beef, or chicken, is so GROSS but ends up so tasty.

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Cook 5-6 minutes to start the browning process and cover the meat. Then toss in the onions and garlic into the pot and stir in.  Cook for another two minutes until the onions are getting soft and it smells nice and garlicky.

Season liberally with salt and pepper, add chopped basil,  and cook until meat is browned.

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Lower the heat a little bit and then add in the stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and porcini mushrooms with water and stir until well mixed.  I prefer my sauce thick, more like a stew, but if you’re into a thinner sauce, you could add a half cup more stock or even a glug or two of wine here.

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Bring sauce to a boil, then turn the heat to low.  Taste test sauce to see if it’s too bitter or acidic.  If yes, add in the sugar and stir well.  Put the lid on, slightly ajar, so the steam can escape, and simmer for approximately 1 hour, checking periodically to stir.

At the one hour mark, you can turn the heat off under the sauce and put the lid on tight to hold in the heat.

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Now, it’s pasta time!

This recipe makes enough sauce to cover at least a pound of pasta.  Since I found out about my wheat/gluten intolerance a few years ago, the first thing my father said was, “But how will you eat pasta now?”  Today, I’m using Barilla Gluten Free Rotini, which is a corn/rice blend, but my go to gluten-free pasta is Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Penne.  I will say that one thing about gluten-free pasta is that if you overcook it even a little bit, it falls completely apart.

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Luckily for all of us, that did not happen today.

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I prefer the layering technique for the combining of pasta and sauce.  My mother swears it makes the sauce stick better and it keeps the pasta from turning into a lump.  She’s usually right about these things, I’ve found.

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Since my box of pasta was only 12 ounces, I ended up with about two cups of extra sauce.  I’m going to freeze it and then when I need a super quick meal, I can actually make something instead of spending money on takeout.

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Serve up the pasta hot and sprinkle with your personally preferred amount of shredded Parmesan cheese.  You can certainly pair this with a green salad, but I’m not gonna lie – I’m probably going to eat it with (gluten-free) garlic bread instead so there’s something to soak up all the extra sauce.

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Hearty Turkey Bolognese
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium sized white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • ½ tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water
  • 1 cup chicken stock, regular or low sodium stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz.), regular or low sodium
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar (optional)
Instructions
  1. First, break your dried mushrooms up and get them into a small bowl. Cover them with hot - not boiling - water and set them aside. You should be able to find porcini mushrooms at any Italian grocery. I've also seen them at Whole Foods and I got mine at The Spice House in Chicago.
  2. Next, chop your onion and your basil. I did that thing where I rolled the basil leaves like I always see on the Food Network and I felt like quite a profession there for about 30 seconds. It was awesome.
  3. In a deep pot, pour ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, roughly 3-4 turns of the pan. It should cover the entire bottom of the pan.
  4. Add in the turkey and, using a spoon, break up the meat into small pieces. Cover the meat with the dried Italian Seasoning. Man, this is always my least favorite part. Something about ground meat, whether it's turkey, beef, or chicken, is so GROSS but ends up so tasty.
  5. Cook 5-6 minutes to start the browning process and cover the meat. Then toss in the onions and garlic into the pot and stir in. Cook for another two minutes until the onions are getting soft and it smells nice and garlicky.
  6. Season liberally with salt and pepper, add chopped basil, and cook until meat is browned.
  7. Lower the heat a little bit and then add in the stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and porcini mushrooms with water and stir until well mixed. I prefer my sauce thick, more like a stew, but if you're into a thinner sauce, you could add a half cup more stock or even a glug or two of wine here.
  8. Bring sauce to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Taste test sauce to see if it's too bitter or acidic. If yes, add in the sugar and stir well. Put the lid on, slightly ajar, so the steam can escape, and simmer for approximately 1 hour, checking periodically to stir.
  9. At the one hour mark, you can turn the heat off under the sauce and put the lid on tight to hold in the heat.
  10. Prepare your pasta, per the box instructions.
  11. Then serve up the pasta hot and sprinkle with your personally preferred amount of shredded parmesan cheese. You can certainly pair this with a green salad,
  12. Now, it's pasta time! This recipe makes enough sauce to cover at least a pound of pasta. I prefer the layering technique for the combining of pasta and sauce. My mother swears it makes the sauce stick better and it keeps the pasta from turning into a lump. She's usually right about these things, I've found.
  13. Since my box of pasta was only 12 ounces, I ended up with about two cups of extra sauce. I'm going to freeze it and then when I need a super quick meal, I can actually make something instead of spending money on takeout.
  14. Serve up the pasta hot and sprinkle with your personally preferred amount of shredded parmesan cheese. You can certainly pair this with a green salad, but I'm not gonna lie - I'm probably going to eat it with (gluten free) garlic bread instead so there's something to soak up all the extra sauce.
 

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