How To Make Wild Turkey Ragu

With turkey season quickly approaching but winter weather still holding on, I dream of mornings in the woods listening to gobbles breaking the silence of the pre-dawn darkness. Every year I save some turkey in my freezer until this time to remind me of – and to forestall my longing for – the hunts ahead. A wild turkey ragu over pasta is a welcome dish in my house any time of year, but it is especially inspiring now.

This particular ragu recipe utilizes legs and wings – parts of the turkey that are often underappreciated. The legs and wings of a wild turkey are generally reserved for low and slow cooking methods, such as braising, due to the amount of connective tissue and tendons; ragu is a perfect option for making the most of this meat.

For this recipe I used the legs and wings from my daughter’s 2019 turkey. This was a 3-year-old bird and therefore required a longer cooking time than a jake would. Cooking times for turkeys vary considerably with age; older birds tend to take a bit longer to break down. So, reference the cooking times in this recipe as a starting point. This recipe is an adaptation of a couple of different types of ragu recipes, primarily using a Venetian-style recipe as a base. I’m confident it’ll become a staple of your wild-food cooking repertoire.

Wild Turkey Ragu 


  • 2 wild turkey legs and 2 wings
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Zest from 1 orange 
  • Juice from ½ orange
  • 2 cups turkey broth

Cooking Instructions: 

  1. Salt and pepper the turkey liberally.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil over med-high to high heat in a Dutch oven or oven safe, straight-sided pan at least 3 inches tall.
  3. Brown the turkey legs and wings (I do legs and wings separately to not overcrowd the pan) and set aside.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to pan, and add celery, onion and carrot. Sauté until softened.
  5. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.
  6. Add tomato paste and stir to combine, then cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add red wine to deglaze. While wine is boiling rapidly, add orange zest and orange juice and allow to reduce by half.
  8. Add diced tomato, bay leaves and turkey broth.
  9. Salt to taste.
  10. Add turkey and collected juices to pan.
  11. Cover and simmer on medium-low to low for 4-7 hours (legs are done when you can easily pull the tendons from the leg meat).
  12. When turkey is done, remove the meat from the pan. If sauce is overly loose, turn heat up slightly and reduce until thickened, while pulling meat.
  13. Pull all meat from legs and wings and chop into small pieces. Add the meat back to the pan. The sauce should be quite thick
  14. Prepare gnocchi or a wide pasta like tagliatelle or pappardelle.
  15. Cook pasta in heavily salted water until al dente, and reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
  16. Add ½ cup pasta water to sauce and increase heat on saucepan to medium-high.
  17. Add pasta to sauce and simmer until thick and velvety. (Do not rinse drained pasta!)
  18. Serve with parmesan cheese.

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About Jason Meekhof

Events and Special Projects Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

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