This Is the Secret to a Better Turkey-Based Meat Sauce

updated May 1, 2019
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Because ground turkey is so low in fat, it’s not exactly a meat with a reputation for big flavor. But I’m here to change your mind because I recently used it to make some of the most delicious meat sauce I’ve had in ages.

And it’s all thanks to a trick that is going to make you a true believer in turkey meat sauce once and for all. Wanna know my secret?

Start with Pancetta for a Better Turkey Meat Sauce

The key to making an absolutely delicious turkey meat sauce — that’s juicy and packed with a deep, rich-tasting flavor — is making sure the sauce has an ample amount of fat (in addition to a glug of cooking oil). And of all the variations I’ve tried over the years, there is no better choice than small cubes of pancetta. It’s a fatty ingredient that brings flavor, without making the sauce greasy.

Rendered in the pot at the very beginning of cooking, the fat from the pancetta softens the mirepoix and works its way into the crumbles of ground turkey. Expect pancetta to give the sauce a full flavor and extra body and a richness you simply cannot get from lean turkey alone.

Why Pancetta Is Better than Bacon

Like bacon, pancetta is a cured meat made of pork belly — but unlike bacon, pancetta is not smoked. And this is what makes it our top pick for building a better meat sauce. Since it’s not cured, pancetta has a considerably more mild flavor than bacon, which has the potential to overwhelm the sauce with its smokiness.

Have you ever tried this trick? If not, I urge you to give it a shot!