With red wine, tomatoes, seasonings, and more, you'll never miss red meat in this Chicken Bolognese Sauce!
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Full of rich and savory flavor, this Chicken Bolognese Sauce is a comforting and impressive Italian pasta sauce. This dish has the depth of flavor of a beef ragu without any red meat, thanks to a few common pantry staples.
This recipe also keeps very well so you can also enjoy it for meal prep throughout the week.
Bolognese is the "you know it's a special night" dish in this house.
The kind of dish that, when Chris smells it simmering on the stove, asks if there's a special occasion he forgot about.
The wafts of dry wine and acidic tomatoes accented by savory herbs and tender slow-cooked meat are definitely indicative of a notable happening, for sure, but as of late that sensory experience is enough to be the special event.
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Especially now that I created this chicken bolognese to have on our menu. Just as full of flavor, but a bit lighter on the waistline, this recipe somehow seems more approachable than its red meat cousin.
Seriously -- all of my taste testers were surprised when I revealed to them that there was no beef in this recipe. Thanks to sundried tomatoes and tomato paste, we recreate the dimensional and savory flavors of a typical beef or pork-based bolognese without the extra fat or cholesterol.
All of this proving that a recipe can seem fancy without being fancy. Which means that you, too, can enjoy this recipe any night of the week. No special occasion required. 😉
Here at Mae's Menu, we have a variety of readers: those who are more experienced in the kitchen and want to zip straight through to the recipe and those who want to learn more about it, potential substitutions, and more.
To skip straight to the recipe, just click "Jump to Recipe" at the top left of this post. To browse the post quickly, just click the headings in the table of contents below.
Table of contents
- This chicken pasta sauce recipe is...
- Recipe ingredients:
- Ingredient substitutions & recipe adaptations:
- What is bolognese sauce?
- How do you serve bolognese?
- How to make this chicken bolognese recipe:
- Pro-tips to make chicken bolognese perfect every time:
- Can you double this recipe?
- How to store, freeze, & reheat this pasta sauce:
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Other Italian recipes you'll love:
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This chicken pasta sauce recipe is...
- An impressive entertaining dish
- But also perfect for weeknight dinners with the family
- Naturally gluten-free
- Delicious for meal prep
If you're looking for a healthier hearty pasta sauce, this chicken bolognese is for you. Thanks to red wine, sundried tomatoes, and tomato paste, this sauce has layers of savory flavor without using any red meat.
- Olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- Ground chicken - choose a chicken that is a mixture of chicken thighs and breasts, not a lean or only ground chicken breast variety
- Dried thyme
- Dried rosemary
- Dry red wine - red blend, cabernet sauvignon, chianti, merlot, or Sangiovese wine all work great
- 2% milk - whole milk can also work in a pinch
- Diced tomatoes - the better the quality tomato, the better the bolognese will taste
- Tomato paste
- Sliced sundried tomatoes in oil - adds a depth of flavor to the sauce, making it rich like a beef bolognese
- Pappardelle, tagliatelle, polenta, mashed potatoes - or any other base you'd like to serve the sauce on
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Ingredient substitutions & recipe adaptations:
- Ground meat - this recipe can certainly be made with ground meat instead of chicken, but the resulting bolognese will (obviously) no longer be of a chicken variety 😉
- Herbs - fresh thyme and rosemary can substitute for the dried herbs, just triple the directed amount of dried herbs
- Dried tomatoes - dry sundried tomatoes can be used in place of the oil-packed tomatoes, just add an extra 1.5 tablespoons of oil in the initial sauteeing step and use only 3 tablespoons of dry-psck tomatoes.
What is bolognese sauce?
Bolognese is a classic Italian meat sauce that is cooked over low to medium heat as aromatics, wine, and milk or cream are individually added to the sauce. The resulting flavor is a dimensional, rich, and tomato-forward.
The sauce is typically served over egg-based pasta but it also can go well over different bases (see next).
How do you serve bolognese?
Bolognese sauce is delicious on mashed potatoes, polenta, or pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta. I love serving it along wilted spinach, blistered green beans, air fryer zucchini, or a large green salad.
Keep this recipe low-carb and gluten-free by serving it over baked spaghetti squash or cauliflower rice.
Keep this recipe gluten-free by serving it over polenta, mashed potatoes, or chickpea or brown-rice pasta.
How to make this chicken bolognese recipe:
For the complete recipe and specific measurements, please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Saute the onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil and butter until the onions are translucent.
- Add the ground chicken, salt, black pepper, dried thyme, and dried rosemary to the pot and cook, crumbling and stirring until the chicken is cooked through.
- Pour the red wine into the pot and simmer for 9-12 minutes, or until reduced.
- Pour the milk into the pot and simmer for 7-9 minutes, or until the milk has evaporated.
- Stir the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and sundried tomatoes into the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35-38 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced and dark red.
- Toss the bolognese with pappardelle or tagliatelle or serve over polenta with parmesan cheese, if desired.
Pro-tips to make chicken bolognese perfect every time:
- Use ground chicken with breast and thigh - we need some fat in the meat for a moist and tender meat sauce. So, choose ground chicken made out of ground thigh and breast, not just breast (which is also called "extra lean" or "95%+ lean" ground chicken).
- Use quality tomatoes - the quality of your tomatoes will certainly present in the final flavor of your sauce, so don't skimp on tomatoes if you can afford not to.
- Don't rush the sauce - during the simmering, the flavors develop and deepen, so this can't be hurried. Admittedly, this recipe is a bit on the longer side, but your patience in letting the sauce simmer will be rewarded.
- Add extra water by the ¼ cup-full, if needed - if your sauce dries out during the final simmer, add extra water by the ¼ cup-full as needed until you've reached the full cooking time. Just stir in the water and simmer until reduced and repeat as needed until the sauce is finished cooking.
Can you double this recipe?
Yes, you can double this recipe, however, the cooking times will be longer.
If you do double it, increase the simmering time after adding the liquids (wine, milk, and tomatoes) by 50%, or until the liquid has evaporated. Increase the final simmering time by 10 minutes, still adding in extra water by the ¼ cup, if needed.
How to store, freeze, & reheat this pasta sauce:
To store: package leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4-5 days.
To freeze: package the leftovers in a freezer-safe container and freeze for 2-3 months.
To reheat: heat the leftover sauce at 70-80% heat for 1 ½-2 minute intervals, stirring between intervals, or until heated through.
To reheat from frozen: defrost the bolognese in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours and then follow the basic reheating instructions above to warm up the sauce.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Cutting board
- Chef knife
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Can opener (optional)
- Dutch oven or 12-13" deep skillet
- Heat safe stirring spoon
Other Italian recipes you'll love:
- Creamy Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Peas
- Instant Pot Beef Ragu
- Baked Sausage Casserole with Ricotta Cheese
- Sundried Tomato Red Pesto
- Garlic Angel Hair Pasta
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cup finely diced yellow or white onion
- 1 ⅓ cup finely diced carrots
- 1 ⅓ cup finely diced celery
- 2 lbs. ground chicken (breast & thighs)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup sliced sundried tomatoes in oil
- Hot pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta; polenta, or mashed potatoes to serve
- Grated parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)
- Heat a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the oil, unsalted butter, onion, carrots, and celery and saute for 7 ½-9 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onion is turning translucent.
- Add the ground chicken, salt, black pepper, dried thyme, and dried rosemary to the pot and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently and crumbling the chicken as you cook, or until the chicken is cooked through and the herbs are fragrant.
- Pour the red wine into the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cook at a medium simmer for 9-12 minutes, or until the wine is evaporated, stirring the mixture every few minutes.
- Pour the milk into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 7-9 minutes, or until the milk has evaporated, stirring every few minutes.
- Stir the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and sundried tomatoes into the pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook at a low simmer for 35-38 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, or until the sauce is thick and dark red. Add water by the ¼ cup of the sauce reduces too much during the cooking time, simmering the water off between additions.
- Remove the sauce from the heat. Serve over hot pasta, polenta, or mashed potatoes. Serve with grated parmesan, if desired.
Leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. You can also freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container for 2-3 months.
Amount Per Serving Calories 284Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 105mgSodium 424mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 3gSugar 6gProtein 24g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dietitians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.