Fettuccine with Lamb Bolognese

This deeply flavored, long-simmered bolognese sauce is achieved by braising lamb shank meat in red wine and broth with soffritto (onion, carrot and celery), a little pancetta, herbs and tomato until it falls apart and everything melds together. It's wonderful on dried pasta (especially if you spring for a really good one from Italy), and extravagantly delicious on home-made fettuccine or pappardelle.

Of course you can make it entirely ahead and simply heat it up before serving, or serve it right away. If you want to serve fewer than 6 people, set some of the sauce aside before adding the pasta, and keep it for later, storing covered in the fridge if you'll use it within a few days, or freezing, if not.

Makes enough to dress about 1 1/2 pounds dried pasta or 1 recipe fresh pasta, to serve 6 to 8.

Ingredients

2 lamb shanks, about 3 pounds total

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

2 medium celery stalks, diced

2 ounces diced pancetta

3 large garlic or 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

2 cups red wine

2 cups chicken broth

1 rosemary branch

3 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

1 ounce dried porcini, any big pieces broken up

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomato 

1 piece lemon peel (about 2 inches by 1 inch)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/2 recipe fresh or 1 1/2 pounds dried fettuccine or other pasta

Freshly grated parmesan

Instructions

1. Use a sharp knife to cut the meat off the lamb shanks into chunks of about two inches. (Don't worry about the exact size, as they will cook so long they'll fall apart.) Sprinkle them with salt. Don't throw away the bones or worry that there's still meat clinging to them – you'll be using them too. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat till it's shimmering. Add the lamb chunks and bones and brown them, turning them once or twice, about 12 minutes. Don't worry if they're not browned on all sides. Use tongs to remove the meat to a bowl of plate. 

2. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, turn the heat to medium, add the diced onion, celery, carrot and pancetta and cook till soft, stirring now and then, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook two minutes more.

3. Add the red wine, turn the heat to high, and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits. Add the browned lamb (including the bones) and the broth, along with the rosemary, bay leaves, porcini, diced tomato (including the liquid) and the lemon peel. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for about 2 1/2 hours to 2 hours and 45 minutes, till the sauce has cooked down into a thick ragu. Skim off any obvious puddles of fat. This is a good time to bring your pasta water to a boil. 

4. Remove the lamb bones, scraping any meat that may be clinging to them back into the pot, and discard them, along with the bay leaves, lemon peel and the thick rosemary stem. Add a few grindings of black pepper, stir the sauce, taste it and correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. 

5. Boil your pasta in salted water, and when it is al dente (for dried) or after about three minutes (for fresh), use tongs or a strainer to drop it directly into the sauce. Let the pasta cook briefly in the sauce so the flavor penetrates it, and serve immediate, accompanied by grated Parmesan.