Lamb Bolognese

_DSC1038I’ve been scared to make bolognese for a long time. Probably a couple years, in fact.

I’m one of those people that is strongly motivated by success. The ugly flip side of that is I’m strongly demotivated by failures. I still remember the first time I tried making bolognese. I had found this purportedly authentic recipe off of a food blog devoted to Italian food. I slaved over the sauce, letting it stew for hours all afternoon. I followed the supposed “rules” of a traditional bolognese – “no tomatoes!” “No herbs!”.

After hours of slaving away in the kitchen, I invited Bryan to join me in partaking in my creation.

“It’s sort of bland. It’s lacking that depth of flavor.”

I was so disheartened, I didn’t make bolognese for almost three years . . . . until now.
This post is part 2 of the crazy lamb-centric meal that I created on Sunday night (right after our crazy snowstorm) in honor of Lamb Lover’s Month in collaboration with the American Lamb Board. Other posts in this series include Lamb Loin with Chili, Mint, and Mustard Seed and Rack of Lamb with Morels, Asparagus, and Mustard Seeds.

This bolognese is a little different because it’s made with ground lamb. I pretty much followed a traditional bolognese recipe but with a few tweaks.

First, I used a decent bottle of Italian chianti as the wine. The Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina (2008) retails for about $18. The 2007 vintage (which we also own but Bryan didn’t want me to use it for cooking) actually made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines list in 2010.

Second, I made the bolognese in a pressure cooker. It was awesome – instead of stewing for 3 hours on the stove, I only cooked it for about 20-30 minutes, tops. It came out super tender, flavorful, and was one of the most popular dishes of the night.

Finally, I snuck in a few less conventional ingredients. I didn’t have pancetta on hand, so I used a few strips of bacon instead. I also threw in a handful of diced tomatoes because I felt that the sauce could be just a tad brighter. Finally, I did add herbs!

It turned out great, and I totally plan on making this again. The guests I made it for loved it. My one friend who really loves lamb enjoyed this dish more because she thought it had more of that “gamey” flavor. Guess what? I couldn’t find American ground lamb at the market, so this pasta was actually made using New Zealand lamb. Of course, you can easily use American lamb if you prefer a less gamey/grassy flavor.

Between using the pressure cooker and the food processor for chopping the mirepoix, this could almost be a weeknight meal that I can still make from scratch!


Lamb Bolognese
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main dish

mirepoix (1 carrot, 1 celery, ½ onion)
3 slices bacon, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ cup red wine

¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth

1 lb ground lamb
½ cup diced San Marzano canned tomatoes (optional)
½ T dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
salt & papper to taste
1 package of pasta of your choice ( 8-12 oz dried; 1 lb fresh)

1. Make mirepoix by finely chopping carrots, celery, and onions in a food processor. Set aside.

2. Cook bacon at medium heat in a pressure cooker (or normal Dutch oven) until fat is rendered. Add mirepoix and garlic and cook in the bacon fat for about 10 minutes, or until softened.

3. Add wine and deglaze the pan. Cook at medium high heat until all the alcohol has evaporated. While waiting, mix together the tomato paste and the chicken broth.

4. Add lamb and cook until no longer pink.

5. Add tomato paste/broth mixture and optionally tomatoes to the pot.

6. Add rosemary and bay leaf and cook under pressure for 10 minutes. Release the pressure.

 7. Add 1 cup of water, mix up the sauce, and cook again under pressure for at least 10 minutes or more. During this time, cook pappardelle according to the directions on the package.

 8. Release the pressure of the pressure cooker and cook off any excess liquid until sauce is nice and thick. Season to taste and serve with the pappardelle.  Optionally roll pappardelle “ribbons” into swirls for plating.

Pasta “rolls” accompany a rack of lamb dish

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  1. says

    Congratulations for successful bolognese this time, Jen! I was actually craving for some this week…maybe I’ll try making it too this week!

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