Pasta nights always hit different when we're having this Indian spiced lamb bolognese. Ground lamb is decadently seasoned with star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and cloves, then combined with tomatoes, onions, garlic and red wine. Then after a slow simmer, this spicy, saucy lamb bolognese is the perfect compliment to any pasta!
Now I'm not a fan of simple bottle pasta sauce + boxed pasta combo. Its just doesn't have any freshness or zing! I like creamy pastas, layered & baked pastas and I also like fusion pastas. For this recipe, I combined the traditional Indian dish lamb keema and ragu bolognese, the saucy meat based sauce from Italy. So here's a little background on both dishes.
What is Lamb Keema?
Lamb keema is ground or minced lamb seasoned with spices and sautéed with veggies like onions and garlic. Keema matar (or meat and peas) is a common keema dish that is served with naan. Keema can also be used as a filling for samosas. Ground chicken can be substituted for lamb.
What is Bolognese?
Ragu alla bolognese (or ragout) is a meat based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. Meat and a mixture of veggies are sautéed. The entire dish is slow simmered for a long time with tomatoes and other seasonings. The result is a thick sauce that is served over pasta. Common dishes with this sauce are spaghetti bolognese and lasagna.
Ingredients in Indian Spiced Lamb Bolognese
- Ground lamb - I like to use New Zealand Grass-fed ground lamb
- Canned tomatoes - one can of 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes provide the perfect texture and flavor for this spicy sauce
- Tomato Paste - adds an additional depth of flavor, makes it taste like its been simmering for hours!
- Veggies and Aromatics: Onions, Garlic, Ginger
- Red Wine - A nice, dry red wine work best. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir all work well in this recipe.
What Spices are used for Lamb Keema?
- Dry Whole Spices: Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cumin, Black pepper, Cloves
- Ground Spices: Salt, Sugar, Chili Powder, Garam Masala, Turmeric
How to make Indian Spiced Lamb Bolognese
- Sauté Lamb. Firstly bloom the whole dry spices in a little oil. I look for the spices to start simmering in the oil a little bit (about 30 seconds), then add the ground lamb and break it down with a spatula, wooden spoon or a meat crusher. Once the ground lamb is broken to crumbles, remove the ground meat from the pan and set aside. (I usually remove the whole spices from the meat at this point: star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves). Keep the seasoned oil in the pan.
- Make the Tomato Sauce. Next start on the sauce. Add garlic, ginger, onions to the same pan that the lamb was cooking in. There is usually enough oil and fat from the lamb that I do not need to add any additional grease to the pan. Sauté the veggies for about 1 minute. Add the red wine to the deglaze the pan, simmer until the liquid reduces to about half. Add in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and the remaining spices and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
- Combine Lamb and Tomato Sauce. Lastly, add the minced, seasoned ground lamb back into the pan and let cook in the tomato sauce for another 10 minutes before serving.
Tips & Variations
- I think lamb pairs beautifully with these spices but I've found that chicken can easily be substituted in place of the lamb.
- To make this vegetarian, I suggested substituting with tofu crumbles to get a similar texture as the meat.
- In general, this spicy lamb bolognese can be served over any type of pasta, but it can also be used in lasagna or over mashed potatoes or polenta, or even pizza!
Indian Spiced Lamb Bolognese
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 onions diced
- 2 teaspoons garlic
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 2 green chilies minced
- ½ cup red wine
- 28 ounce canned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt add more or less per preference
- 1 teaspoon sugar add more or less per preference
- 2 teaspoons Garam Masala
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder add more or less per preference
Whole Spices for Lamb
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 cloves whole cloves
- 4 black peppercorns
- 2 pods star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
- In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat. Add the whole spices and bloom (simmer for about 30 seconds).
- Add the ground lamb and break it down with a spatula. Once the ground lamb is broken to crumbles and no longer red, remove the ground meat from the pan and set aside. (I usually remove the larger whole spices from the meat at this point: star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves). Keep the seasoned oil in the pan.
- Add garlic, ginger, onions, green chilies to the same pan that the lamb was cooking in. There is usually enough oil and fat from the lamb that I do not need to add any additional grease to the pan. Saute the veggies for about 1 minute. Add the red wine to the deglaze the pan, simmer until the liquid reduces to about half. Add in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and ground spices, then let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the minced, seasoned ground lamb back into the pan and let cook in the tomato sauce for another 10 minutes before serving. Taste for salt. Serve over pasta.