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Recipe: Lamb Bolognese Bianco

 Michelle McGlinn

Bolognese is a staple in any pasta-lovers’ recipe repertoire. What’s not as common is the tomato-less white version, bolognese bianco. Made with cream and Parmesan instead, bolognese bianco is closer to a stroganoff, with a rich flavor and creamy texture. Add lamb, peas, and fennel, like in this recipe developed with Michelle McGlinn, and you have a perfect, silky, springtime pasta. Known for being gamey, lamb can be tricky to add into dishes, especially when paired with delicate flavors like braised fennel. The magic of this dish — and why you’ll want to pick up ground lamb on your next grocery run — is that the rich sauce balances the meaty lamb flavor, making it versatile enough to pair with tender fennel and springy peas. The dish comes together in an elegant combination of flavors that rival the dishes in your favorite restaurants, all from the comfort of your own home.

Gathering the ingredients for lamb bolognese bianco

ingredients on a table

Step 1: Prepare your pot with oil

oil in dutch oven

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.

Step 2: Cook and crumble the lamb

cooking lamb in pot

Cook the lamb, crumbling as it browns, for about 5 minutes.

Step 3: Soften the aromatics

onion and garlic in pot

Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2–3 minutes.

Step 4: Deglaze the pot

adding wine to pot

Add the wine and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Add the seasonings and stock, and simmer

broth and fennel in pot

Add the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, fennel, Parmesan rind, and chicken stock to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until reduced to about 1 cup of liquid, about 40 minutes.

Step 6: Cook the pasta

cooking pasta in pot

In the meantime, boil the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain the remaining water.

Step 7: Add the remaining ingredients

cream and peas in pot

Remove the herbs and rind, then add the peas, whipping cream, and grated Parmesan. Stir to combine.

Step 8: Simmer until thick

thickened sauce in pot

Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Step 9: Toss with pasta and water

pasta tossed with sauce

Add the pasta to the bolognese and toss with ½ cup pasta water. If desired, thin the sauce further with the remaining ½ cup water.

Step 10: Top with fennel fronds to serve

fennel fronds on pasta

Top with the reserved fennel fronds to serve.

Lamb Bolognese Bianco Recipe

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Ditch the tomatoes and grab lamb, fennel, and green peas for this pasta recipe, the less common but equally delicious and hearty bolognese bianco.

Prep Time
5
minutes

Cook Time
1.08
hours

Servings
4
servings

lamb bolognese on plate

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 small sprigs rosemary
  • 2 small sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup peas
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ pound gigli Toscani pasta

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Cook the lamb, crumbling as it browns, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2–3 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, fennel, Parmesan rind, and chicken stock to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until reduced to about 1 cup of liquid, about 40 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, boil the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain the remaining water.
  7. Remove the herbs and rind, then add the peas, whipping cream, and grated Parmesan. Stir to combine.
  8. Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes, or until thickened.
  9. Add the pasta to the bolognese and toss with ½ cup pasta water. If desired, thin the sauce further with the remaining ½ cup water.
  10. Top with the reserved fennel fronds to serve.
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What pasta works best for bolognese?

close up of pasta on plate

Because it’s simmered low and slow, bolognese is a heavy sauce. Whether red or white, bolognese works best with pasta shapes that can hold thick sauces. The pasta shape we use in this recipe, gigli Toscani, is a perfect shape for this particular dish because the spiral shape holds pockets of creamy sauce while the “trumpet”-shaped top catches the peas and lamb pieces. It’s also a perfect shape for spearing tender fennel and pasta both on the same fork. 

Gigli Toscani, also known as campanelle, isn’t a common pasta shape, so if you have trouble finding the intricately spiraled shape, there are a few other pasta types that will be just as good. You can look for other spiral shapes, such as cavatappi, fusilli, or rotini. You can look for similarly short pasta shapes like farfalle or casarecce, or you can also look for classic tube shapes like penne and rigatoni. If you’re more of a long-pasta type of person, avoid strand types like angel hair and linguini, which will get mushy in the thick sauce. Instead, try pappardelle or mafalde.

Can I use a different type of meat for this bolognese recipe?

cooked pasta in pot

This bolognese bianco is perfectly complemented by meaty, peppery lamb, which has a distinct taste that separates it from beef or chicken. If you can’t stand the gamey taste of lamb or simply can’t find it in your grocery store, you can swap it for other options. Ground beef and ground chicken will both offer similar results, beef being more meaty and chicken being less rich. 

You can also swap in fish, adding the fish at the end instead of in the beginning. Whitefish goes well with bolognese bianco, fennel, and peas, but surprisingly, salmon also fits well into this creamy dish and gives it a Scandinavian feel. To add fish instead of lamb, first sear the fish on either side, then remove it from the heat and continue with the rest of the recipe, beginning at the aromatics. After the sauce has reduced and the cream has been added, add the fish back in to simmer and heat through. Lastly, this dish also makes a great vegetarian option — just leave the meat out entirely.

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