We had some fennel leftover from a risotto I made this week and I figured since the spring lamb season is upon us again I’d combine the two. I generally much prefer lamb from the end of summer or coming into autumn that’s had a chance to graze on pasture because it has a more pronounced flavour but I know a lot of people can be put off by its strong taste so younger lamb can be a good option here.
I found this recipe online years ago but I’ve made a few alterations to it, mainly dropping the saffron which never really added anything for me and upping the amount of fennel because it’s one of my favourite ingredients. You can get garganelli pasta in Little Italy in Smithfield but otherwise just use penne (although try to get the type without ridges). If using dry Marsala you can probably increase the amount here; I could only find the sweet variety and you have to be really careful as the sweetness can overwhelm the dish. To counter that I sometimes add lemon juice or more sherry vinegar. Should either type of the wine be unavailable, I’d say a good substitute would be madeira.
15ml olive oil
250g lamb mince
200g fennel (thinly sliced)
2 cloves garlic
250ml veal/lamb stock
5g fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
5g ground fennel seeds
5ml sherry vinegar
- Heat a pan on a high heat and then add the olive oil, when just smoking add the mince and fry until golden brown.
- Meanwhile melt half the butter in another pan on a medium heat and throw in the fennel. Sauté for a few minutes and then lower the heat and cover. Cook until the fennel has browned, stirring occasionally to stop it burning.
- In the pan with the lamb, lower the heat and add the garlic and the anchovies and fry until the anchovies have dissolved.
- Turn up the heat and pour in the marsala.
- When the marsala has almost completely evaporated add the stock, rosemary and fennel seeds.
- Drop the heat and leave to simmer until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds.
- Bring a pot of heavily salted water to the boil and add the pasta.
- When the fennel is nicely brown, turn up the heat and add the sherry vinegar and let it boil off.
- Scrape the fennel into the pan with the lamb, stir in the last of the butter and season to taste.
- When the pasta is al dente drain and then add to the lamb.
- Mix them thoroughly and divide into plates and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.