Bolognese, Built.

There's nothing tame about this sauce -- a bolognese built around lamb and mortadella, reinforced with red wine, crushed tomatoes and cream, and bolstered with toasted spices and fresh herbs. "Built" being the key metaphor here. A great bolognese is not just cooked, it is crafted -- with thoughtful ingredients and ample patience. Rush it and yes, you'll have a perfectly edible sauce, but it'll be like limestone compared to the beautiful marble of a slowly simmered bolognese. What I really love about this version, which I adapted from Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner of Houston's The Pass & Provisions, is the brilliant addition of a lemon-pistachio gremolata (which I transformed into a pesto), which delivers a most-welcome kiss of brightness to cut through the rich sauce. (The lamb also imparts a unique earthiness that you wouldn't get from pork or beef.) Believe me, this is one that'll impress guests, kids.


[Adapted from Tasting Table's Sous Chef Series]


1 pound lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound mortadella
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 whole star anise
3 fresh basil leaves
2 large sprig fresh oregano
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 dried bay leaf
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup whole milk
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
1 pound fresh pasta


½ cup pistachios
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the bolognese: Freeze the chunks of lamb shoulder and mortadella for 20 minutes until semi-frozen. Pulse in a food processor to break them down into a rough-textured mixture. [Alternatively, if you have a meat grinder: Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set a medium bowl inside of the ice water bath. Using a meat grinder or the grinder attachment of a stand mixer, force the pork shoulder and then the mortadella through the grinder and into the bowl set within the ice water bath.] Set meat aside.

Heat a large pot over medium; add black peppercorns, fennel seeds and star anise. Cook, stirring often, until fennel seeds are golden [2-3 minutes]. Remove from heat and transfer spices to a large double-folded square of cheesecloth. Add basil, oregano, thyme and bay leaf to cheesecloth and secure with butcher's twine. Set aside. 

Heat olive oil in same pot over high. When oil is hot [after about 1 minute] add ground lamb and mortadella and cook until meat is browned [about 8-10 minutes]. Use slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl. Add celery, garlic, onions, and carrot to the pot and cook, stirring often, until vegetables caramelize [6-8 minutes]. 

Return meat to the pot with the vegetables and add the red wine. Stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, add red wine vinegar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until liquid is reduced by half [about 10 minutes]. Add crushed tomatoes and milk. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours. Stir in grated Parmesan, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. 

To make the pesto: Toast the pistachios in a 350dg oven for about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. When nuts have cooled, transfer to a food processor and pulse until crushed, but not powder-fine. Add olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and zest. Pulse to combine, adjusting measurements as necessary for taste/consistency. Stir in salt. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, then drain and drizzle with olive oil. When ready to serve, plate (or bowl) pasta, spoon bolognese over the top and finish with a large dollop of the lemon-pistachio pesto. 


  1. This looks absolutely delicious! I love a good bolognese!

  2. So true, a real bolognese is a labour of love and should not be hurried. I haven't seen one with lemon-pistachio gremolata/pesto before, such an interesting addition.

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  4. We in Bologna cook the ragou´different - for sure not using Mortadella, but I`m exited about your pesto, what a great combination! Thank you!

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