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Simple Lighter Ragu Sauce Recipe

This simple, lighter Ragu sauce recipe is based on a classic Ragu but is made lighter with ground turkey instead of beef. Yet retains the ultimate flavor we love in this simple, classic Italian pasta sauce.

Bowl of lighter ragu sauce over pappardelle with fresh parsley

Who doesn’t love a good ragu as the season begins to change? I love the delicate balance and hearty aftermath of contentment I feel after just one bite.

However, my waistline can’t always handle the twenty-something grams of fat per serving. So, on those days when your calorie budget doesn’t allow the “real” version made with higher fat beef, but you crave the hearty ragu over yummy pappardelle noodles, try this version instead.

This recipe is inspired by a dish once served at Luce in Portland, Oregon.

Tell Me More About Ragu

What is the difference between Ragu and Bolognese sauce?

Ragu is a meat-based Italian sauce, served over pasta. It is thicker and generally uses red wine. Bolognese is a form of Ragu sauce and is thicker and creamier than traditional American meat sauce. It also generally uses white wine and contains no garlic or fresh herbs.

Why do Italians put milk in Ragu?

Milk gives a creamy, delicate texture to the sauce and helps balance the acidity of tomatoes.

What pasta is best with Ragu?

The best pasta with Ragu is wide flat noodles like pappardelle, which is my favorite pasta. However, tubular shapes like penne and ziti are also delicious. Ribbed pasta, like rigate (pasta with ridged surfaces), helps capture even more of this delicious sauce.

Does Ragu have garlic?

Absolutely! Ragu generally contains meat, onions, wine, tomatoes paste, and vegetables, including garlic.

Lighter Ragu Sauce Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make this lighter Ragu Sauce. The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Olive oil
  • Ground pork
  • Ground turkey
  • Onion, minced
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Fresh thyme (or dried thyme)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Tomato paste
  • Dry red wine
  • Canned Italian whole tomatoes
  • Chicken broth
  • Milk

Kitchen Tools Needed to Make Ragu

This is a one-pot recipe that only requires a generous size skillet with a lid that will sit askew during cooking.

1 Tip in Making a Classic Ragu

The best tip for making a classic style ragu, including this Lighter Ragu Sauce, is to chop the vegetables finely so that they resemble the size of rice grains.

How to Make This Lighter Ragu Sauce

  1. Heat oil in a skillet and brown the ground pork and turkey. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same skillet, add the vegetables and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cook until they are softened by not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Add tomato paste and stir until the mixture becomes deep red; about 3 minutes. Return the ground meat to the skillet, stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.
  4. Then stir in the tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened; about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the broth, and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low, place the lid askew, and simmer, stirring as needed until meat is tender and sauce is reduced; about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of milk from time to time.

Can You Make Ragu Sauce Ahead?

Yes! This sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Let cool slightly, and then refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled. Then cover and store in an airtight container.

For longer storage, freeze the sauce in a freezer container for up to 4 months.

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Vertical view of bowl of Lighter Ragu Pasta Sauce
Bowl of lighter ragu sauce over pappardelle with fresh parsley

Simple, Lighter Ragu Sauce Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

This simple, lighter Ragu sauce recipe is based on a classic Ragu but is made lighter with ground turkey instead of beef. Yet retains the ultimate flavor we love in this simple, classic Italian pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, small dice
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a skillet and add pork, and season with salt and pepper. Brown pork with a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add ground turkey to the skillet and brown. Transfer browned turkey to the bowl with pork and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, add onion, carrot, celery, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables, over medium heat, until softened but not brown. Add garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  3. Add tomato paste to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until deep red and caramelized; about 3 minutes. Add pork and turkey to the skillet and stir. Then add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the undrained tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until sauce is thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low, place the lid askew, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender and sauce is reduced; about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of milk from time to time. At the end of cooking, all of the milk should be absorbed to create a thick soup type of texture. If needed, remove the lid during the last 1/2 hour for the juices to reduce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve over pasta and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes

Make Ahead

Ragù can be made up to 3 days ahead. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and keep chilled. For longer storage, you can freeze for up to 4 months.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 302Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 134mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 25g

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