Meat Sauce for a Crowd

This makes WAY more turkey meat sauce than you will need for a pound or two of pasta, but there’s a reason you’re being presented with a recipe this large.  First, of course you can cut this in half.  But ground turkey and turkey sausage are usually sold in one pound packages, so if you buy one of each, this is what you will end up with. 

Big Batch Turkey Meat Sauce

This makes about 20 cups of turkey meat sauce (whoa!).  Here’s what I like to do 1) Make one pound of pasta and serve several cups of the sauce with that the night I make it; 2) The next day, make a lasagna with several more cups of the meat sauce, and bake that for later in the week; 3) Freeze the rest of the sauce in two or three containers, so that pasta with homemade meat sauce is an option any night I’m in a pinch, and another lasagna is halfway there.  

Big Batch Turkey Meat Sauce

Ground Turkey Pasta Sauce

This recipe calls for a combination of ground turkey and turkey sausage. I lioke to brown them together for two reasons.  One, it’s easier and faster.  Two, I have the impression (based on no scientific fact) that when they are cooked together the seasonings from the much-more-flavorful turkey sausage season up the plain ground turkey, and that the two become one in a more delicious way than they would if they were cooked separately and simply met up later in the sauce.  You are welcome to argue with me on this, though I’m sure we all have better things to do.

Slit the thin casing around the sausage, which makes it much easier to get the sausage out, and sautéthe inside sausage up into small browned bits, which combine with the ground turkey and then meld into the sauce.

Big Batch Turkey Meat Sauce

Make Ahead Turkey Meat Sauce

The sauce will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, and 6 months well sealed in the freezer.  Money in the bank, am I right?

Meat Sauce Variations

You are more than welcome to use ground beef or pork, and pork sausage and make this a full-on red meat sauce, if you like.  This is a little lighter, and for us almost-vegetarians (eg, non-red meat eaters) a very satisfying meat sauce. 

Big Batch Turkey Meat Sauce

When you have extra containers of meat sauce in the freezer, all is right with the world.

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Wine in Meat Sauce

The wine adds something, and the alcohol off in cooking, so it won’t affect the kids (and yeah, I know it’s horribly politically incorrect to even have a fleeting wish that it might.  Shame on you for even thinking that.)  Almost any wine is good, really red or white, adding another layer of flavor, unless it is sweet or has a very intense unusual flavor.

What Pasta to Serve with Turkey Meat Sauce

You can pick from a variety of pasta shapes, from chunk shapes like penne, ziti, rigatoni, orecchiette, or cavatappi to long strands like spaghetti, linguine, or bucatini. Very thin pastas like angel hair might get a bit overwhelmed by the thick meaty sauce, as would tiny shapes like orzo or ditalini.

Big Batch Turkey Meat Sauce

What to Serve with Turkey Meat Sauce:

Other Delicious Pasta Recipes:

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Turkey Meat Sauce

When you have extra containers of meat sauce in the freezer, all is right with the world.
Yield: 20 People
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound ground turkey don’t buy the ultra lean
  • 1 pound fresh hot turkey sausage squeezed from the casing
  • 1 pound fresh sweet turkey sausage squeezed from casing
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 3 shallots finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Big glug or two of red or white wine if you have a bottle open
  • 4 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes preferably in puree
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 pound penne, rigatoni or ziti rigate (optional) (rigate means ridged, and those ridges help catch the sauce in the pasta)


  • In a large saucepot, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add both the ground turkey and the turkey sausages together and cook, stirring frequently, and breaking up the meat so that it’s very crumbly and browned throughout, about 4 to 6 minutes. Turn it into a strainer and let it the fat drain off.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pot over medium heat (don’t clean it! All those little bits of flavor from the meat will season the sauce). Add the onion and shallots, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano and basil and cook, stirring for 2 more minutes, until you can smell the garlic and herbs.  Add the wine, if using, and stir for one more minute, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom, until the wine pretty much evaporates.
  • Add the canned tomatoes and red pepper flakes if using, and stir to combine everything. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked turkey and sausage, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  Taste, and season gently with the salt and pepper (the sausages provide a whole lot of seasoning).
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of coarse salt, and return the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  Drain, and toss with as much  sauce as desired.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 252kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 493mg | Potassium: 737mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 400IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 3mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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  1. I also make this with a combo of ground beef and Italian sausage. Quarts live in my freezer and save me weekly from schedule colliding crazy nights.

  2. Out standing !
    I used ground beef with hot and sweet sausage.
    2 teaspoons oregano
    1 tablespoon basil
    Pino Grigio 1cup or so
    2 teaspoons sugar at the end!

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