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Tagliatelle with Quick Lamb Sugo


Serves 4 to 6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 121

A sugo is a rich Italian sauce that usually cooks for hours. This speedier version includes red wine, tomato paste, and tomato juice to create deep flavors more quickly. One bite and you’ll think the sauce simmered on the stove all day.

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into small dice (about 1-1/4 cups), plus 1 to 2 Tbs. chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 lb. fresh tagliatelle or fettucine
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano for serving

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spatula, until softened and just starting to brown, about 4 minutes.

Add the lamb, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and another 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Move the mixture to the side of the pan and carefully tilt the pan to pool any fat on the empty side. If necessary, spoon off all but about 2 Tbs.

Add the tomato paste and mash it on the bottom of the skillet to brown it slightly, about 1 minute, before stirring it into the meat. Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet to loosen any browned bits, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomato juice and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and clings to the meat, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the fennel fronds and oregano, cook for 1 minute longer, and remove from the heat.

Cook the tagliatelle in the boiling water until just al dente, 3 to 4 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the water and then drain the pasta.

Return the skillet to medium-low heat, add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir to blend. Loosen with a little of the pasta cooking water if necessary and serve topped with grated cheese.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 530, Fat (kcal): 17, Fat Calories (g): 150, Saturated Fat (g): 5, Protein (g): 25, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8, Carbohydrates (mg): 65, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2, Sodium (g): 660, Cholesterol (g): 50, Fiber (g): 5,

Photo: Scott Phillips

I adapted this to what I had on hand, substituted 1 can of tomato sauce instead of paste and juice, a glug, glug of Pinot Noir, 4 minced garlic gloves, and snip of basil. Regular store brand egg noodles topped off with shredded mozzarella.


We thought this good but nothing outstanding & nothing we would make again.

A deliciously satisfying weeknight pasta dish!

Excellent flavor. I found that 8 oz. of pasta was more than enough and used 2 small bulbs of Fennel. one didn't make 1 1/4 cups.

We've just returned from 3 nights in San Francisco and 2 of our restaurants were about as authentically Italian as could possibly be. Last night I prepared this dish, and let me tell you that compared to our trip, we were even happier to be dining on rustic and exquisite Italian cuisine in the comfort of our home. Fresh egg pasta is essential to this dish! My only tweaking was to put the cooked Lamb, Fennel, Onion mixture into a strainer (over a bowl), and then put the suggested amount of fat back into the saucepan before proceeding with the recipe. Cheers all, Jeff

This recipe is easy and delicious served with a really good pasta. Very rich and hearty. Wouldn't change a thing. Will make again.

I, too, will make this again. The recipe would adapt very well for a quick Bolognese ragu, if ground beef were used. For a richer sauce, I would suggest substituting Passata for the tomato juice, if available (my local supermarket only just started to stock it). A keeper, for sure.

LOVE this recipe. Very easy to prepare and cook. I love how the fennel and red wine complement the ground lamb quite nicely. I'll definitely make this again.

Really tasty and very easy to throw together on a weeknight! I ended up using white wine, as it was the only thing I had on hand and the flavor was on par with other bolognese sauces I've made that have taken much longer.

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