Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce


It's the deep, intense flavor of lamb that sets this sauce apart from other classic meat sauces. So does the fact that the meat is not ground, but cut into small pieces and cooked as you would a stew. This recipe calls for lamb shoulder, but you can use another cut as long as it's not too lean.

Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce
Photo: © Con Poulos
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
50 mins
4 to 6


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion

  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

  • 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice

  • Coarse salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices

  • 1 pound penne or maccheroncini

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving


  1. Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft. Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.

  3. Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.

  4. Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.

Suggested Pairing

Lively, red cherry-scented Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

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