Chicken Bolognese

If you like hearty pasta sauces, but want something just a little lighter than a traditional bolognese sauce, this chicken bolognese is for you.

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A hand sprinkling parsley over a bowl of spaghetti with chicken bolognese sauce.

Chicken Spaghetti Bolognese

A pasta with bolognese sauce is one of my favorite meals, so it’s risky for me to tamper with the sauce ingredients, but this chicken bolognese sauce has earned a new special place in my heart (and my stomach!). This is the lighter version of one of my favorite meals, replacing the beef with chicken, but keeping the meat as the central ingredient of the sauce. This is a meat sauce with tomato, not a tomato sauce with meat.

A cutting board on a wooden countertop with a bowl of chopped celery, a bowl of chopped onion, a bowl of chopped fennel and a knife cutting more fennel with a red and white kitchen towel next to all.

What is Chicken Bolognese Made of?

There are a few ingredients added to this chicken bolognese to distinguish it from its better known parent sauce. Not only is the beef replaced by chicken, but I also add a little fennel to the onion and celery. Fennel has a delicate licorice flavor, but when cooked it becomes even fainter in prominence, adding just enough interest to this sauce to keep you guessing. If you can’t find fennel at your grocery store, you can leave it out and bump up the onion and celery a little, but I do think you should try to include it at least once. I also add milk to this bolognese sauce, but that is in keeping with tradition. The milk helps to tenderize the chicken. The chicken, by the way is not just ground chicken, but chicken sausage, which is a great way to add even more flavor and seasoning to this sauce.

Looking down into a saute pan with a creamy meat sauce inside and a wooden spoon sticking out of it, with a red and white kitchen towel over one handle.

What Chicken Sausage to Use for Chicken Bolognese

Of course, the best chicken sausage to use for this chicken bolognese sauce is your favorite chicken sausage. If you can find one that has fennel seed in it, even better. Whatever you choose, you should be buying fresh (not cooked) chicken sausage for this recipe. After all, it will be cooked with the sauce.

Looking down into a saute pan with chicken bolognese sauce and a wooden spoon sticking out of it.

Is Chicken Bolognese Healthy?

That’s a loaded question. The answer to whether chicken bolognese is “healthy” or not really depends on how you define the word “healthy”. Chicken bolognese is lighter in calories than beef bolognese merely by the fact that you’re using chicken instead of beef, so it is lower in calories and lower in fat. If fat is something that you’re trying to control, you could reduce or even eliminate the olive oil in the recipe, but olive oil is a good-for-you oil, so… you really have to decide if this is a healthy meal for you. All I can say is that it is lighter than beef bolognese.

A ladle ladling sauce over a bowl of spaghetti with a glass and bottle of wine and a second place setting near by.

How to Serve Chicken Bolognese

I like to toss the pasta with a little of the bolognese sauce first and then top it with more, but you can also just ladle the sauce over plain pasta if you prefer. Either way works. Remember to warm your bowls to keep the meal as hot as possible for as long as possible. Sprinkle a little more parsley on the top and let people grate fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over their pasta.

A hand grating Parmigiano-Reggiano over a bowl of pasta with chicken bolognese sauce.

Easy Pasta Sauce

This chicken bolognese has earned its spot in my preferred meals not only because of its delicious flavor and lighter nature, but because it is so easy and quick to prepare. It requires a little chopping, but once the sauce is simmering, it’s only 20 minutes before it’s really to turn out over pasta. You can also freeze this sauce and just reheat it for dinner. That makes it a weeknight meal and an easy pasta sauce that delivers bang for its buck.

Two place settings with two white bowls of chicken bolognese over spaghetti, a bottle and glass of wine and a block of Parmesan cheese on the table.

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Chicken Bolognese

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 35 m
  • Total Time: 50 m
  • Servings:
    to 6 people


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • ½ large onion chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 ribs celery chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ bulb fennel diced (about 1½ cups)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 to 1½ pounds chicken sausage 3 to 4 links, casings removed
  • ½ cup white wine or dry vermouth
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan cheese to taste


  1. Pre-heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil along with the onion, celery and fennel. Season with salt and cook until the vegetables start to become tender - about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the dried oregano, bay leaves and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the remaining olive oil and the chicken sausage, breaking the sausage up with a wooden spoon as you brown it. Cook just until there is no pink remaining in the chicken sausage chunks – about 5 minutes.
  4. Deglaze with the white wine, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the sauté pan, and bring to a simmer for a minute or two. Add the milk and tomatoes, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the dried spaghetti according to the package directions until it is al dente. Drain and transfer the spaghetti to individual or family style serving plates.
  6. Stir the parsley into the simmering sauce and ladle the sauce over the pasta. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.
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