Leftover Turkey Bolognese

October 31, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

Picture this: a few days post-Thanksgiving you open the fridge and realize all the sides from the big day are gone and you’re left with a daunting amount of turkey. Rather than reheat it in the microwave or oven with other side dishes, make turkey bolognese! It’s the ideal place to put all that leftover turkey and it’s a new horizon for your tastebuds that are over classic Thanksgiving flavors. 

This recipe uses up other leftovers in your fridge beyond just the turkey. I usually steal my bolognese base from those rogue gallon bags of leftover crudité that inevitably hang around too long, the wine from that last bottle someone decided to open too late in the night, and the remaining heavy cream from mashed potatoes or whipped pie toppings. 

Don’t let the cooking time in this recipe scare you—it’s mostly hands-off to give the turkey a chance to rehydrate and come back to life. This sauce should have at least 50 percent dark meat and I mean it! Anything less and this bolognese will be a bit chewy.

You’ll notice that the recipe doesn’t have any dried seasonings and lists salt and pepper as ingredients to use at your discretion. That's because I don’t know how you cooked your turkey! The seasoning on your turkey will dictate any adjustments you make to this recipe. I call when to taste the sauce and make seasoning adjustments but you know to taste as you go for the best result. After all, you just cooked Thanksgiving dinner—this will be a piece of cake or better… a bowl of pasta. —Becca Jacobs

What You'll Need
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (2/3 cup)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dry wine (red or wine, depending on what you have leftover)
  • 4 cups leftover turkey, shredded (at least 50 percent dark meat)
  • 28 ounces can whole-peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound pappardelle or tagliatelle (any wide flat noodle will work)
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Place a 4-6 quart Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté, about 5 minutes until fat is rendered and pancetta is crispy. Add carrots, celery, onion, and butter and stir to combine. Continue to sauté for about 10 minutes until all the vegetables have noticeably reduced in size and the vegetables leave a trail of fond when you stir.
  2. Deglaze the pot with the wine and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the wine is reduced by half. Add the turkey, crushed tomatoes, and water to the pot. Stir to combine, making sure the turkey is fully submerged.
  3. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer. Place the lid on and continue to cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to cook at a gentle simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed, so that the turkey softens in the sauce.
  4. In the last 20 minutes, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain.
  5. Stir in pecorino romano, heavy cream, and parsley to the finished sauce. Taste and season, as needed. Add the cooked pasta to the pot with the sauce and add 1/3 cup of pasta water at a time until you are satisfied with the consistency (you might not use the whole cup).
  6. Divide among bowls and garnish with minced parsley.

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