Fat Spaghetti and Spicy Meat Ragu with Fennel

A beautiful blend of herbs added to a San Marzano tomato wine and meat sauce over pasta is an inviting meal.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed (half a palmful)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (a beef and pork mix may be substituted)
  • 2 fresh or dried small red Fresno chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons rosemary, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes, look for D.O.P. on the label or when ripe and in season 10-12 fresh plum or Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 long piece of orange rind
  • 1 pound bucatini or pici (fat spaghetti, not hollow)
  • Fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or shaved Pecorino cheese
  • Minced fresh mint and flat leaf parsley, for garnish


Heat the EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan, in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the fennel seed and stir; add the meat and brown well while crumbling. Add the chili peppers, onion and garlic and season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Cook to soften the onion, 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until fragrant. Add the wine and reduce by half, then add the stock and the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then throw in the citrus rind to mellow the sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes to cook down the tomatoes. Discard the orange rind.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the salt and cook the pasta to al dente. Just before draining, add 1 cup of the starchy cooking water to your sauce. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce to combine, 1-2 minutes.

Serve in bowls topped with the fresh or shaved cheese and garnished with mint and parsley.

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Rachael Ray