Lamb Stew with White Beans

This recipe calls for a flavor base (soffritto) of onions cooked to a deep golden, enhanced with a little smoked bacon and thyme. The chunky stew is served over separately cooked white beans.

Course Main Dish, Piatto Unico (one-dish meal)
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 6 servings


  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon or pancetta
  • pounds lamb stew meat* preferably from grass-fed lamb
  • Sea salt or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar or ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • Leaves from several thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
  • 4 large carrots
  • 8 ounces cooked, seasoned flageolets or other white beans**


  1. With kitchen shears, cut bacon crosswise in ¼-inch strips. Trim external fat from lamb chunks. Salt and pepper generously.
  2. Cook bacon over medium heat in large saucepan (Dutch oven size) until cooked through but not to crisp stage. Remove to plate with slotted spoon.
  3. Add olive oil to bacon fat. Over medium-high heat, sear lamb until browned on all sides. Remove lamb to plate.
  4. Add onion to pan and cook, stirring, until golden verging on brown. Stir in garlic and cook a few seconds. Stir in tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, 1 cup water, thyme and bay leaves. Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.

  5. Return bacon and lamb to pan. Simmer, partially covered, until just tender, about 40 minutes. Add more water as necessary for a saucy consistency.
  6. Meanwhile, cut fennel in thin wedges (leave stem end intact so they will not fall apart). Angle cut carrots in short, thick chunks. Add fennel and carrots to saucepan. Stir well and simmer until cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  7. To serve: Spoon beans into shallow soup/pasta bowls; 1 cup is about right. Center lamb stew with vegetables on top; ladle a little of sauce on each serving.

Recipe Notes

* I happened to find "lamb stew meat" already cut up. If you do not, most cuts of lamb will work for this recipe: leg, shoulder or shank. 

** I usually cook a full pound of beans and use the remainder for other meals.