Chefs' Recipes

Fusilli with lamb ragu (Fusilli con ragu di agnello)

Finish with a little grated lemon zest to freshen up this classic pasta dish.

By Sarah Cicolini
  • 10 mins preparation
  • 2 hrs 10 mins cooking
  • Serves 4 - 6
  • Print
"In Abruzzo we eat a lot of lamb and mutton; it turns up roasted, stewed and simmered in sauces," says Sarah Cicolini, chef at acclaimed trattoria Santo Palato. "This dish riffs on this classic Abruzzese pasta accompaniment by adding a little lemon rind for fragrance and flavour, and the thyme evokes the wild herbs that the sheep encounter as they graze through the mountains."


  • 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 450 gm coarsely minced lamb or mutton (see note)
  • 250 ml dry white wine, such as fiano
  • 500 gm dried fusilli
  • 75 gm Parmigiano-Reggiano (see note), finely grated
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon


  • 1
    Heat oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (15 minutes). Increase heat to medium-high, add lamb and fry, stirring occasionally, until almost cooked (5 minutes). Add wine and simmer until evaporated (5 minutes). Add 250ml warm water, then reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep the pan from drying out, until lamb is browned and flavours are infused (1-11/2 hours).
  • 2
    Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 litre pasta water. Add pasta and half a ladle of pasta water to the ragù, and stir to coat, adding a little more pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Season to taste and serve immediately topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon rind.


Mutton gives this ragù a stronger flavour than lamb; it's available to order from select butchers. Cicolini uses 60-month aged or 36-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. If it's unavailable, substitute with Parmigiano-Reggiano made from the milk of vacche rosse (red cows), which is available from cheese shops such as Formaggi Ocello.
Drink suggestion: Rich red Montepulciano. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.