Veggie-Loaded Turkey Bolognese
This veggie-loaded turkey bolognese is a family favorite at our house and a great way to get extra veggies in at dinner.
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Family Favorite Dinner
Today I’m sharing one of our family’s favorite dinners, veggie-loaded turkey bolognese. Of course, I just call it “turkey bolognese” when I refer to it with the kids.
This dish came about when I tried to create a pasta sauce that my non-marinara-loving younger son, Henrik, would like. Like traditional Italian bolognese, it contains a little tomato paste, but it looks like more of a shredded carrot and meat sauce.
Gateway Meals for Picky Eaters
Interestingly enough, since I started making this 6 months ago, he now likes marinara sauce! I guess you could call it a stepping stone or “gateway” meal. I have found this approach to work so many times when introducing new or previously disliked foods. Take a food they like, tweak it just a little, and try it out.
This is also a way to gradually add more veggies to a meat-loving child. For example, once my kids both liked ground beef tacos I started adding finely chopped kale to the mixture, it was a success! I’m still working on getting my kids to love beans and lentils, but I think you could a little bit to a sauce like this and it would be accepted.
Nourishing Comfort Food
Pasta bolognese was also one of my favorite meals growing up. So it’s pure comfort food for me. Even back then my mom was grating carrots and other root veggies into the sauce, so it was healthier than I realized. (Of course, I also always added a dollop of ketchup to my serving! A little extra sweetness and a Swedish kid thing–ketchup on everything!)
Like my version, my mom’s version never had that much tomato sauce in it. This allows all the other veggies to shine and is great for people who limit red sauce since it sometimes triggers heartburn (um, yep, that would be me!) Of course, my older son loves red sauce, so sometimes I usually add a half cup of Rao’s Homemade marinara sauce to half of this bolognese. It’s delicious either way.
I love to make this in my Le Creuset Dutch Oven. Although it only requires 20 minutes of cooking time, I often leave it simmering on the stove for a good 45 minutes, and just add extra stock as needed. It fills the whole house with a delicious aroma and gives you time to get the side salad and pasta prepped in a relaxed manner.
One more tip, consider making extra and freezing or even just saving it for lunches the next day. My kids love to bring this in a thermos with pasta to school. They also won’t complain if I serve it for dinner again soon!
Veggie-Loaded Turkey Bolognese
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 carrots, grated
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 zucchini, grated
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock (optional, not needed if you use more marinara sauce)
- 4-8 ounces marinara sauce (we like Rao's; add more or less to preference)
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, celery, and carrots and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the turkey, stirring and breaking apart into little bits as it cooks, for about 5 minutes or until cooked through. Add the zucchini and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add the tomato paste, marinara sauce, and stock, and continue cooking for at least another 5 minutes but longer if you prefer. (You can leave it simmering with a lid for half an hour or so, but may need to add more stock). Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Adjust veggies to preference; if missing an ingredient that’s ok, it will still be great!
- Pile in even more veggies: mushrooms, spinach, and parsnips would all be delish.
- Go spicy and add red pepper flakes.
- Go vegan and add cooked chickpeas and red lentils instead of turkey and veggie broth instead of chicken broth.