What’s Cooking at Third Coast? Turkey Sausage Marinara—Chunky Good

Tired of traditional meat sauce over your spaghetti? Bored with store-bought marinara? Here’s an easy and healthy alternative using turkey, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Not only is it delicious over your favorite pasta, it makes plenty for leftovers and freezing.

I love to create stovetop recipes—a little of this, a little of that, a taste here and a taste there. That’s exactly how this marinara came to be. A blend of onions, celery and carrots, or mirepoix, is the perfect starting point for most of my tomato-based sauces. At first I made it with ground turkey only, but it needed more flavor so I added Italian turkey sausage. (If you like, you can also substitute Italian pork sausage for the turkey sausage. Or you can simply stick to ground turkey.)

From start to finish, this recipe takes about an hour. It tests your chopping and sautéing skills too. While I’ve recommended herbs and seasonings, you may increase or decrease the amounts according to your tastes. I like kalamata olives in my sauces, but I’m not a fan of spicy hot. Want more heat? Just kick up the amount of crushed red pepper.

Let’s get cooking!

For the mirepoix:

2 carrots, peeled and diced
1  stalk celery, diced
2 small onions, diced
2  T extra virgin olive oil

For the turkey marinara:

1   lb ground turkey (93% lean/7%fat)
¾ lb Italian turkey sausage (approximately 3 links)
2   T grapeseed or canola oil
1    28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1    28-oz can tomato sauce
2    oz. red wine (any kind)
2    cloves garlic, crushed
1   T basil, dry
1   T marjoram, dry
½ tsp. kosher salt*
¼ tsp. pepper
1 ½  tsp. sugar
1/8   tsp. crushed red pepper**
3  oz. pitted kalamata olives, chopped (optional)

*   more to taste
** more if desired


In a large, 4-5 qt. saucepan, sauté the onions, carrots and celery in olive oil on medium-high heat until soft and translucent. Remove from heat.

Remove turkey sausage from the casings unless using bulk sausage. In a skillet, brown the ground turkey and turkey sausage in grapeseed or canola oil. (While the tendency is to use a non-stick skillet, I prefer stainless steel.) Keep your eye on this stirring often to avoid sticking. Set aside to cool slightly.

In the large saucepan containing the mirepoix, add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine, garlic, basil, marjoram, salt, pepper, sugar, and crushed hot pepper. Stir together. Add browned turkey and turkey sausage. Simmer over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes. Add kalamata olives if desired.

Enjoy over linguine or any fresh or dried pasta. Sprinkle with freshly grated aged Parmesan. And don’t forget to pour that glass of Chianti.


  • If you don’t have a kitchen scale, dash out and get one! They’re handy and helpful when you need to weigh ingredients or you’re concerned with portion control. I like Salter and Escali digital brands.
  • To freeze, portion into freezer-safe bags or containers after the sauce has completely cooled and tuck away in your freezer for another day.

Photos by Cynthia Kallile.

Cynthia Kallile
Cynthia Kallile