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Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way


Last weekend, after my husband had come home from an exhausting week long work trip, I felt it was the least I could do to cook for him.  I’m a good cook, but I consider cooking to be more work than I am usually up for.  Cooking typically requires planning, shopping, prepping, and cleaning up; all things that take the time I would rather use doing something else.  Jon (my husband), on the other hand, finds the process relaxing.HeyGirlfriend.Net ~ Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

Since I was not in the mood to plan and shop for a grandiose meal, I took the cheater’s way out by finding two boxes of Trader Joe’s Turkey Bolognese (pronounced bɒləˈnjeɪz) in our freezer.  I then searched through the fresh produce I had on hand and chose what would compliment the sauce.  I also found a can of good Italian peeled tomatoes.

Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

For sweetness, I chose a large sweet onion (when my husband makes sauce from scratch, he puts more onion in than any of the other veggies… remember, tomatoes are a fruit), 4 skinny carrots, and a red bell pepper (a trick I learned from my paternal grandmother who was an accomplished cook and baker); I chose 2 or 3 stalks of celery for texture and flavor and 4 garlic cloves for flavor.  Since carrots are dense, I chopped them more finely than the other vegetables because I wanted them to be soft and well incorporated into the sauce.  I knew the other veggies would cook evenly.


*A note about carrots: my carrots had gone a little limp.  The flavor was still very good, so I used them.  I immersed them in ice water and refrigerated them for a few hours to crisp them up again.  I didn’t take the time to fully crisp the carrots that I cooked, but I did fully crisp the carrots that I didn’t use, so we could enjoy them later.


**Remember that your sauce will only be as good as the quality of the individual ingredients you use, so make sure every flavor is up to par and of good quality.

Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's wayOnce the veggies were chopped, I put them in a pot, drizzled olive oil over them and cooked them on medium to medium high heat.

Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

I seasoned them with a bay leaf, kosher salt (to taste), a pinch or two of crushed red peppers and a few grinds of black pepper.HeyGirlfriend.Net ~ Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

I incorporated the can of Italian peeled tomatoes by chopping them with the wooden spoon and stirring them into the al dente vegetables, letting them simmer together for about 20 minutes.  I didn’t have fresh or dried basil.  Thankfully, basil was already in the canned tomatoes.Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

Then I added 2 boxes of Trader Joe’s frozen Turkey Bolognese.Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

As it thawed, I folded it into the sauce.Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's wayWhile the sauce was simmering, I boiled a pot of heavily salted water (think ocean water) and cooked the pasta until it was al dente.


Once the pasta was cooked to perfection, I drained it, saving a small amount of its water.  I returned the pasta to the pot in which it was cooked (you can use a warm pasta bowl instead, if you prefer).  I added the small amount of water I saved when I drained the pasta, to keep it from getting sticky (be careful not to add too much or your pasta will be watery), then drizzled it with good olive oil.


I added about 3/4 of a cup of bolognese sauce and mixed it into the pasta (my Italian friend Ennio taught me to add a bit of the pasta water and a small amount of sauce to the pasta before topping it with the actual serving of sauce).  After that, I plated it, topped it with sauce and sprinkled it with Parmesan.  If I had fresh basil, I would have cut it chiffonade style and sprinkled it over the sauce, along with the parmesan and, for me, another pinch of crushed red peppers.


Jon grated a generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano to serve on top of the sauce.  HeyGirlfriend.Net ~ Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's way

When Jon makes pasta sauce, he usually uses fresh super ripe tomatoes.  I decided to use the tomatoes we had in our salad, since they were not too ripe.  The rest of our salad consisted of kale and cucumbers; dressed with good balsamic vinegar, organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Bolognese Sauce, the cheater's wayFlavorful, balanced and delicious!

Delicious Bolognese Sauce, the Cheater’s Way

Two packages of Trader Joe’s Turkey Bolognese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 or 2 sweet onions (they don’t have to be sweet onions, onions sweeten as they cook)
2-4 carrots (depending on size and preference)
3 stocks of celery
1 Bell Pepper (any color)
4 cloves of garlic
1-28 oz. can of Peeled tomatoes (I prefer Cento San Marzano)
Bay leaf
Fresh basil (or at least use canned tomatoes with added basil), to incorporate
toward the end of cooking the sauce and to sprinkle fresh on top of each serving
crushed red peppers
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Pasta of your choosing


Cooking instructions shown above!

*If you don’t have these exact ingredients, get creative and improvise with what you have on hand.

*Sometimes, I use cottage cheese instead of pasta.  This is a great option for those who are gluten intolerant.

HeyGirlfriend.Net ~ Bolognese Recipe

Vintage photo of my husband cooking for me

16 thoughts on “Delicious Bolognese Sauce, the Cheater’s Way

  1. Janea says:

    Wow, Melissa! I absolutely love this post! It is the easiest-to-follow recipe post I have every seen – and I have a huge mental block when it comes to cooking ANYTHING! I love the pictures – they all make it look so yummy. I am inspired to go out to Trader Joe’s as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    XO, Janea http://theSTYLetti.com


    1. You will love this dish! Thank you for your kind comments! Hugs and kisses


  2. Nancy says:

    Delish! I will be trying the Trader Joe bolognese for sure! I’m always happy to get new dinner ideas. Especially for those nights when making dinner seems like an overwhelming task. 🙂


    1. If you eat the TJ Bolognese by itself and decide to heat it in the microwave, don’t overheat it because I think it will make the turkey meat tough.

      Cheater’s Bolognese is really easy, relatively fast (low maintenance) and is very tasty! xoxoxox


      1. Nancy says:

        I made Cheater’s Bolognese last night and it was delish! And, it was even better today for lunch with crunchy sourdough bread (I didn’t have any more pasta). Thank you for the yumminess!


    2. Yay! My heart is happy that someone got to see how great this is! Thanks for trusting me!


  3. Kim says:

    Sounds yummy and easy! Wish we had a trader joes!


    1. You deserve a Trader Joe’s!😉 In the past when I have wanted a store, like that in my neighborhood I have made phone calls to strip mall owners and to the business I want! You should put the bug in someone’s ear! 💖


  4. Sarah says:

    I always love your thoughts on food, now I just need to convince you to come cook for me!;)


  5. Thank you Sarah! 💞


  6. Amy says:

    Yum! Great tips! I can’t wait to try it.


  7. Nancy says:

    What a great way to cheat! Okay I am now officially hungry! After reading both of your posts… steak in the first and now pasta. Off I go to cook something!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Janet bolinger says:

    Nice information Mel, you do make it sound easy! Yum! Very well presented! Lv n hugs Janet b


  9. Ashley says:

    Wanted to add to the Trader Joe’s sauce since it didn’t look super appetizing but I thought it had potential and this recipe was perfect! I added a bit of sugar because I always do that for red sauce and fresh basil at the end but that was the only difference and it was very yummy!


    1. Ashley, I love that you embellished the sauce! Another way to brighten the sauce, without refined sugar, is to finely or roughly chop onions and carrots (my rule of thumb is to use a lot more raw veggies than I think I should, because they cook down so much) and caramelize them before you add them to the sauce. I usually add fresh basil at the end, too! xox


    2. Ashley, thanks for sharing your great tips! Another way to sweeten tomato sauce, if you are not in a hurry (which may defeat the point of purchasing pre-made sauce),
      is by adding a generous amount of caramelized diced onions and diced carrots.


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