The Most Delicious Ground Turkey Red Sauce (A++ Sauce)
Last weekend, Sebastian and I were having our usual night in where we (we meaning me, let’s be real) cook, have some wine and watch a movie. I decided to use that sad ground turkey that was sitting in the back of our fridge to make a red sauce for some pasta. It felt like the right thing to do. I was playing around with this sauce and didn’t think anything of it. As us home cooks do, I was tasting as I was cooking while simultaneously watching New Girl and drinking wine…but the amazing flavor of the sauce didn’t really register with me until I sat down to eat.
That’s when Sebastian and I realized that something magical happened with our ground turkey. I had transformed the sad turkey blob into a delicious “A++ sauce” as he likes to call it. So what is A++ sauce, you ask? Well, it’s actually not that special lol. Hate to break it to you. It’s just a classic tomato sauce with onion, garlic, Italian herbs and ground turkey. The magic flavor party happens when we cook the turkey on a high heat, causing it to brown and develop rich browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which we then deglaze with a crisp, dry white wine to allow all of that deep, rich gravy-like flavor to disperse throughout the sauce. Now, I know that wine is not part of the Whole30 plan and some people may not like to cook with wine, so don’t worry, I have a solution for you, which you can find in the notes at the bottom of the recipe.
I have a free cooking class on my YouTube that you can watch below!
What if I don’t have all of the ingredients?
Don’t worry! You can make this your own way!! The real important stars of the show here are the turkey (which must be
cooked with the method I used to get it nice and caramelized,) tomatoes (you can use tomato sauce, tomato purée, whole tomatoes that are diced, diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes…idc!) onion and garlic, and SALT. When making any sauce, you cannot forget to season with salt throughout the entire cooking process. We love herbs but if you don’t have them, its ok!
I’m on Whole30 – can I still enjoy this?
Lucky for you, I’ve included all modifications at the end of the recipe for your convenience. I also recommend pouring this sauce over roasted broccoli steaks and topping with lemon zest. It’s such a healthy game changer and I think kids would also love it!
Anything else to serve this with aside from pasta and broccoli steaks?
Healthier pastas go well with this sauce : think chickpea pasta, quinoa pasta, red lentil pasta, or any of those fun versions. You can also throw it on zoodles for the ultimate carbless meal that *still* tastes like a hug. You could also add a frozen vegetable medley to the sauce and cook it together the end of the cooking process for a saucy veggie meal.
The Most Delicious Ground Turkey Red Sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 white onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter optional but delicious
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
- 2 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt for seasoning throughout
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
If making with pasta:
- 1 box rigatoni (or another pasta of your choice) cooked until al dente
- Freshly grated Parmesan for topping, optional
- Season a large sauté pan or sauce pan on medium heat with 1/4 cup olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion. It should not aggressively sizzle! If it does, your pan is too hot. It should give you a soft whisper sizzle. Season with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring often (every 30 seconds-1 minute or so) until the onion is lightly golden in color and translucent.
- Add the minced garlic to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. If the pan seems dry, feel free to add a tiny splash of olive oil to lube up that garlic, but don't do this if it's not absolutely necessary because we're going to add some butter in a lil bit.
- Add 2 tbsp of butter to the pan and mix together with the garlic and onion until melted.
- Adjust the heat to high and add the ground turkey to the pan. Season generously with a few pinches of salt and then break the meat up with a spatula until it's dispersed into small chunks (that sounds awful but its truly the only way to describe this.)
- Let the turkey cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes at a time, then sauté with a spatula. Let the turkey cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes. You'll know it's done when the meat is no longer pink and there are lots of golden brown bits on the bottom of the pan. The more the merrier! You want as much flavor as possible in this stage and golden browned bits = flavor. If there's water in the turkey, it will begin to cook off (will look like boiling water around the meat) within the first 5-7 minutes, then the turkey will start to caramelize once all the moisture is cooked off!)
- Adjust the heat to medium. Pour the dry white wine into the pan and scrape the golden browned bits off the bottom of the pan so they combine with the wine. Cook off the wine for 2-3 minutes. Add the dried herbs to the meat mixture and toss together until fully combined.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and another generous pinch of salt. Stir until combined. Taste the mixture to make sure the salt levels are where you want them to be. If they aren't, add more salt to taste and mix into the sauce. If you want pepper, this is the time to add it! The mixture should be lightly bubbling. If it's not, raise the heat until it comes to a simmer, then lower the heat to the low setting or "simmer" setting on your stove. Cover and let the mixture sit for 10-20 minutes as you prep whatever you want to serve it with! The longer a sauce sits, the more flavor it gets.
If serving with pasta:
- As the sauce simmers, bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta into the water and cook until al dente, according to box instructions.
- Transfer the al dente pasta to the pan with the sauce. Grate Parmesan over the hot, steaming pasta as it's sitting in the sauce. Then, toss it in the sauce with a large spoon or spatula -- this helps the sauce stick to the noodles, and of course, adds flavor.
- Plate the pasta with an extra helping of Parmesan on top, or some fresh Parsley or basil. Enjoy immediately!