When my really good girlfriends from San Francisco used to live in New York, I used to have them over for Sunday dinners. We started calling my place Julie's Bistro and it became a tradition. Yvette, Yvonne and Nina (and Susan who still lives on the East Coast) would come over to my cozy studio apartment in the city and we'd have dinner together. Lamb Bolognese was what I tended to make the most often and not coincidentally, received the most rave reviews. There's something about the lamb that makes this a little unique compared to a traditional Bolognese sauce, which is typically made with beef. The lamb has a richer flavor and not surprisingly more fat. But it's yummy and comforting, especially on a cold winter night. Since I have been sick for over a week and it was freezing cold out, I was craving lamb bolognese for dinner big time.
Most of the recipes on this site are quick and easy. While I would say this is somewhat easy to make, it's time consuming. With about 20 minutes of prep time and 1 1/2 hours of cooking time, this is a Sunday dinner and definitely not something you whip up after work. So plan on getting the ingredients over the weekend and start cooking in the late afternoon. You'll have a big pot of hearty bolognese sauce to wow your guests and fill your belly.
Here's what you'll need on your grocery list:
2 28 ounce cans of peeled, whole tomatoes (you'll only need 1 1/2 cans so freeze the remaining half and save for a soup or sauce)
4 garlic cloves
1 large yellow onion
1 pound of ground lamb
1 celery stalk
1 medium sized carrot, peeled
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 cup of low-fat milk (full fat is fine if that's what you have)
1/2 cup of white wine
2 pinches of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme and oregano
salt and pepper
Using a large dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once it's warmed up, add the ground lamb and start breaking up with a wooden spoon. At the same time, place peeled and roughly chopped garlic in a food processor. Add a roughly chopped onion. Cover and pulse until you have a very fine mixture. Keeping an eye on the lamb, continue stirring and add a dash of ground cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper and a dash of oregano and thyme. Once the ground lamb is thoroughly cooked, remove from the dutch oven onto a large plate lined with a few layers of paper towels. This will help drain the fat. Take another paper towel and wipe out the excess fat/oil from the dutch oven.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the onion and garlic and stir to combine. At the same time, add the roughly chopped celery and carrot to the food processor and do the same as you did with the onion and garlic. Pulse until you have a finely ground mixture. Add this to the dutch oven and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil and continue cooking over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until everything is golden brown.
Add tomato paste and quickly turn off the heat to add the white wine. Turn back on the heat and cook down, stirring to combine the tomato paste with everything else. Add back in the lamb. Puree the tomatoes and remember, add only one and a half cans, leaving out the remaining half. Freeze that and save for another recipe. Now it's time to add the seasonings. A dash of cinnamon will add a unique flavor to the bolognese. Then a 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Finally add the milk and stir to combine everything evenly. The milk helps tenderize the lamb and helps bring everything together. I promise you won't notice it in the end. This is not a cream sauce.
Bring the sauce up to a boil and lower the heat to a low simmer. Cook uncovered for one and a half hours. You want to cook this uncovered so that your sauce reduces. Whereas when you're making a soup, typically you cook that covered so that you don't reduce the liquid.
The bolognese should reduce to a thick sauce. Over the one and a half hours of cooking time, continuously check on the sauce by stirring and checking for seasoning. If it needs a little salt and pepper, this is the time to adjust your seasoning.
Once the sauce is done, serve over fresh pappardelle noodles which is a wide pasta. A quick shaving of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese will finish the dinner. I hope you like this as much as I do. I'm most proud of this recipe as I've refined it over the years and it's become one of my signature dishes. Buon appetito!