Lamb Bolognese from 'Family Table'

Lamb bolognese tossed with fettucine noodles and sprinkled with freshly grated cheese on a white oval platter.
Photograph: Marcus Nilsson

We've written and shared several recipes for bolognese sauce over the years here at Serious Eats, and these recipes usually fall in two camps: the traditional slow-cooked multiple-meat bolognese camp or the easier, lighter, faster meat-sauce-maybe-known-as-bolognese camp.

This lamb bolognese from Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner's Family Table falls squarely in the middle. Instead of using the traditional shortcut of pre-ground beef (or a quartet of beef-veal-pork-chicken livers), this bolognese calls for ground lamb. This single step adds rich, slightly gamey flavor that would be impossible to achieve using any other single meat. A relatively quick marinara sauce forms the remaining bulk of the sauce, and a generous pour of red wine (reduced to a bare slick) adds brightness and sweetness.

Finished with a triple punch of cream, butter and parmesan, this hearty sauce clings perfectly to a fresh batch of fettuccine for a decadent spring meal.

Why I picked this recipe: The king of meat sauces meets the king of spring meats (lamb) for what sounded like an excellent take on the Italian classic.

What worked: I loved the bold flavor and richness of the lamb in the sauce; even better was the fact that the recipe was so easy (if not super fast) to pull off.

What didn't: No problems here.

Suggested tweaks: This recipe calls for four cups of Maialino's marinara sauce, the recipe for which yields eight cups. If you don't want extra marinara hanging around, you can easily cut that recipe in half. That said, you could also use any basic marinara recipe you'd like, but it should be on the smooth side.

Excerpted from Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home, copyright 2013 by USHG, LLC, and Karen Stabiner. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 4 cups Maialino Marinara
  • 1 3-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano rind (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine


  1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and brown slowly, scraping the bottom of the pan and reducing the heat as necessary to keep the lamb from browning too fast, until the moisture evaporates and the meat is well browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more. Drain off the fat.

  2. Turn the heat to high, add the thyme, bay leaves, and wine, and stir well. Bring to a boil and reduce until only a small amount of liquid is left in the pan, 5 to 10 minutes.

  3. Add the marinara and the cheese rind, if using, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt.

  5. When the sauce has thickened, remove and discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and cheese rind, if you used it. Stir in the butter, cream, and grated cheese, bring to a simmer, and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated; rewarm over medium-low heat.)

  6. Add the fettuccine to the boiling water, stir to separate the strands, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until al dente. Drain.

  7. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to coat well. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.