Abruzzi Pasta with Lamb

My sister and I were discussing how much we both enjoy lamb a while back, and she emailed me this recipe for lamb ragu from Abbruzzi. She had written lots of notes of what she did and didn’t do to her original online recipe she’d discovered, although she can’t remember the source, and as much as I respect my sister’s expertise in the kitchen, I thought I’d also google the recipe.

Not surprisingly, a lamb ragu recipe by Marcella Hazan popped up from this cookbook, which I own, published in 1999. She calls the recipe Lamb Sauce for Pasta, Abruzzi-Style.

There are some differences in the recipes; my sister’s has thyme, red bell peppers and chile peppers. Ms. Hazan’s recipe includes onion, pancetta and Romano. As always, there’s never one recipe for an Italian pasta sauce, so I’ll stick with my sister’s version.

In the cookbook, Marcella Hazan writes: It is said in France that the goat is the cow of the poor; in Italy one might say that the cow of the lower central and southern regions, for both rich and poor, is lamb.

I also realized another major difference. The recipe I’m making below, uses ground lamb. Ms. Hazan uses boneless lamb that is cut into small pieces. Since I’d already purchased ground lamb, I stayed with that, but she states that the cut up lamb provides a deeper, more earthy flavor. A very interesting point.

The only time Amazon has let me down is when I tried to order the pasta called maccheroni alla chitarra, the classic shape for this ragu, and none was available. I am very disappointed!

Abruzzi Pasta Sauce, with Ground Lamb and Rosemary

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks
4-5 red chile peppers, sliced crosswise
1 pound of ground lamb
1/2 to 2/3 cups white wine
1 pound can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on low. Add herbs and garlic to olive oil. Simmer for a few minutes, carefully, just enough to bring out the flavor.

Add chopped red peppers and sauté until soft. Add the chile peppers, and sauté for just a minute. Remove mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Adjust to medium heat. Add ground lamb, break it up with a fork and/or wooden spoon. Cook lamb until pretty much done, then add wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Simmer for 25 minutes. Only partially cover the pan so some of the liquid evaporates. Add the herbed red peppers and chile peppers to the sauce.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

It is recommended to use a large tube pasta, such as Paccheri. I did, but honestly the sauce wasn’t “thin” enough for the tubes. Penne would have been fine!

I really really liked this recipe! Although I know onion would be good, I love the red bell peppers in the sauce.

And the rosemary and thyme are perfect – not too potent.

By Published On: November 21st, 202233 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. David @ Spiced November 21, 2022 at 7:23 AM - Reply

    You know, I think I’d prefer this with ground lamb. I’m sure lamb pieces would be good, but ground meat in a sauce is my kinda comfort food. This sounds absolutely fantastic, Mimi! Funny side story – Laura’s family makes two Thanksgiving meals every year. The roasted turkey and traditional sides and then the Italian feast. I always go to the Italian feast side, and this recipe certainly deserves a spot on the table! Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!

    • Chef Mimi November 21, 2022 at 8:08 AM - Reply

      Oh, fun! I don’t think I knew your wife is Italian! I thought I was half french and half italian, just because of where my parents were born, but my DNA assures me I’m 83% Italian. Interesting. Anyway, I can certainly see this with ground lamb as well. I get the “comfort” aspect to it in a sauce.

  2. angiesrecipes November 21, 2022 at 7:49 AM - Reply

    This has crave some more lamb (though I just had some cumin braised lamb neck yesterday)! Wish I were holding that bowl of goodness.

    • Chef Mimi November 21, 2022 at 8:09 AM - Reply

      That’s funny. I only crave lamb. No other meat. Maybe roast chicken sometimes. So I get it!

  3. Charlie DeSando November 21, 2022 at 8:25 AM - Reply

    I’ve been to Italy many times, but haven’t yet made it to Abruzzo. It’s not what you would call a tourist destination. But the lamb looks great. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:13 PM - Reply

      I haven’t been there either, but maybe if more people visited it would be a tourist destination! I’ll have to check on Stanley Tucci’s show to see if he goes there. Maybe in another season! Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. David Scott Allen November 21, 2022 at 9:54 AM - Reply

    I would love it both ways — ground lamb or cubed! And I would much prefer this over turkey for Thanksgiving. Lamb is probably my favorite of red meats. Thanks for this, Mimi — and happy Thanksgiving!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:11 PM - Reply

      I always say lamb is the only meat I crave. Sometimes I buy myself a few chops. Salt, pepper, medium rare, perfection. Happy thanksgiving to you and Mark and your family!

  5. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen November 21, 2022 at 3:09 PM - Reply

    This looks really delightful Mimi! I think probably ground versus cubed depends on what type of texture you want in the finished product. My husband would love this any way, he was raised on a sheep farm and still loves lamb any way I cook it, although since his heart attack it is not quite as frequently as he would like!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:10 PM - Reply

      Ohhh, well I understand that. Better to protect your heart. I just love lamb. In any form!

  6. petra08 November 21, 2022 at 4:08 PM - Reply

    What a lovely recipe! What an interesting point ground vs cubed. When I make beef ragu I always use a mix of both but I have never really thought about it more than for texture.
    Your lamb ragu sounds delicious with the bell pepper, chillies and fresh herbs!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:09 PM - Reply

      Interesting! I’ve never thought about using cubed/diced and ground. You’re way ahead of the game!!!

  7. Sherry M November 21, 2022 at 6:31 PM - Reply

    Love your red on white china Mimi, but no to lamb. I am honestly curious here (not being rude I promise) but doesn’t lamb taste … rancid … to you? I ate some by accident the other day (a friend brought over a meal i thought was cooked with beef) and i could not get the taste out of my mouth for hours!! sorry – you are probably going “ooh that nasty so-and-so!!” right now! Truly just curious; maybe it’s like coriander/cilantro – some people are literally born with the gene that won’t let them eat it as it tastes like soap. What an interesting world!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:08 PM - Reply

      Oh goodness. Everyone has a right to her own taste in food. I learned that quickly when I got married, then to a greater extent when I catered! Nothing is personal. Rancid nuts are disgusting. I can’t imagine a similar flavor from lamb. I wonder if it was wild mutton or something like that? I personally don’t think lamb has a “wild” flavor like elk. Sounds like a horrible experience!

  8. Liz November 21, 2022 at 7:56 PM - Reply

    Bill became a lamb lover after eating leg of lamb at my parents’ house one Easter. We make lamb chops, but this is another great way to incorporate lamb in our menu. I have a feeling we’d both love it!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:06 PM - Reply

      Lamb is the only meat I actually will think about. Crave. It’s just so unique and like most meats, so versatile. Chops are great – just salt and pepper and perfection!

  9. Tandy I Lavender and Lime November 21, 2022 at 9:53 PM - Reply

    I love anything Italian so this is a winner for me. I’m going to look in my Italian Tome what it says about this dish.

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:05 PM - Reply

      I really have no idea how authentic this recipe might be, but it’s darn good!

  10. terrie gura November 22, 2022 at 8:38 AM - Reply

    OMG, yes! I love lamb in all its forms, and those hot peppers! Indeed, your dish is giving my taste buds something to dream about instead of all this turkey business. ;)

    Do you happen to have a TJ Maxx near you? I frequently see really interesting Italian-made pasta in their gourmet section; wouldn’t be surprised a bit to find the chitarra pasta there. I think pappardelle would be lovely in your recipe, too!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:04 PM - Reply

      I don’t think there is. Or, I’ve just never been. I’ve never had the patience for those “dig-around” type stores that sell everything. But great suggestion!

  11. Ann Coleman November 22, 2022 at 2:08 PM - Reply

    I’ve never eaten lamb, but this does sound delicious!

    • Chef Mimi November 22, 2022 at 4:03 PM - Reply

      Well it would be good with beef…

  12. StefanGourmet November 24, 2022 at 2:18 AM - Reply

    Hi Mimi, happy Thanksgiving! I also have a version of this recipe on my blog. I have only been to Abruzzo for a couple of days and did not have this dish there. Have you tried looking for pasta alla chitarra or spaghetti alla chitarra? That are other names for the same pasta. Another reason why you didn’t find it is that is primarily fresh pasta (with eggs), made by pushing a sheet of pasta through an instrument that looks more like a harp than a guitar. I’ve actually bought one years ago, but haven’t done a blog post about it yet. It is a convenient way of turning a sheet of pasta into noodles, but I don’t believe you can taste the difference with other noodles of the same thickness and width.

    • Chef Mimi November 24, 2022 at 8:42 AM - Reply

      Yes, I’ve seen those! What’s odd is that I seem to have quit making fresh pasta. I used to be able to make it in my sleep. And I loved filled pastas. I guess one reason is that my husband doesn’t want carbs. Plus, I really enjoy all of the beautiful shapes of dried pastas. But good to know about the fresh chitarra. You should do a post on it! And thank you for the thanksgiving wishes. Needless to say, it’s a busy day!

  13. Jean November 24, 2022 at 9:25 AM - Reply

    I wish my husband appreciated lamb as much as I do. This recipe looks wonderful!

    • Chef Mimi November 26, 2022 at 4:04 PM - Reply

      Ohhh, I do too Jean, I do too…

  14. Eva Taylor November 24, 2022 at 9:31 AM - Reply

    Ontario Lamb has become crazy expensive and I don’t think I’ve seen ground lamb! The sauce looks gorgeous and rich.

    • Chef Mimi November 26, 2022 at 4:04 PM - Reply

      Oh no. That’s so sad. So many food prices are going up these days.

  15. neil@neilshealthymeals.com November 25, 2022 at 12:18 AM - Reply

    What a lovely lamb ragu recipe. For a country that has so many sheep we sadly make little use of ground lamb. And we should be making excellent recipes like this because I love lamb!

    • Chef Mimi November 26, 2022 at 4:06 PM - Reply

      I love lamb too. And there are only little pockets of lamb farms here. Very expensive.

  16. Ron November 25, 2022 at 12:54 AM - Reply

    Mimi, you have done this recipe honor here. This is one of our favorite dishes and Ms Hazan’s cookery books are used here on a regular bases.

    • Chef Mimi November 26, 2022 at 4:06 PM - Reply

      Oh interesting! It was so good. I only have one of her cookbooks, shamefully!

  17. Debra November 26, 2022 at 8:45 PM - Reply

    This recipe must be so rich! The taste combinations are elegant, Mimi. I don’t recall ever combining thyme with lamb, but now I’m very curious about what that adds. I think the aromas as you cook this dish must be amazing. :-)

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