Lamb Braised in Milk with Fennel

Jump to Recipe

Chunks of lamb, browned, and simmered in milk and cream with fennel and garlic. Spin off of a traditional Italian milk-braised pork dish.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Lamb braised in milk. Huh? Okay, yes, I know it sounds weird (at least it did to me at first) but hear me out. It’s just a spin on a traditional Italian recipe of pork braised in milk, in which the milk reduces down to a rich and creamy white sauce.

If you prefer pork to lamb, check out the links at the bottom of the recipe to a few excellent recipes for pork variations. For you lamb-lovers (and yes I admit that here in the US we are definitely in the minority) I urge you to give this treatment a try.

My friend Peg made this for a few of us the other day, served over farro, and I couldn’t wait to make it. She got the recipe from Mario Batali, and I tweaked with it a bit. So good!

Especially over the farro, though I’m guessing it would be just as good over brown rice (for the nutty dimension) or even mashed potatoes.

As for farro, it’s a grain popular in Italy that is slowly becoming more known here. It’s essentially a wheat berry, but with much less gluten than wheat.

The term farro can refer to several differ varieties of wheat, including emmer and spelt. The farro I used in this recipe was farro piccolo, or einkhorn. It sort of tastes like barley, oats, and pasta all rolled into one.

Lamb Braised in Milk with Fennel Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 5 to 6

You should be able to find boxed farro at Whole Foods or in some natural food stores. If you cannot find farro, you can substitute brown rice, for a similar nutty flavor. Although many farro cooking instructions call for soaking the grain overnight, I have not found it necessary so far.

If you use brown rice instead of farro, follow the directions on the package for making the rice (not the farro directions listed here). This dish can also be served with plain white rice, barley, or mashed potatoes.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (use mortar and pestle, or chop finely with a chef's knife)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 cups farro (can substitute brown rice)
  • Salt


1 Brown the lamb pieces on all sides: In a large (5 to 6 quart) thick-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high. Pat dry the lamb pieces. Season well with salt and pepper. Working in batches, place lamb pieces in the pan (do not crowd). Do not stir. Turn only once a side has browned. Brown all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

2 Sauté fennel, add garlic, fennel seeds: Reduce heat in pan to medium. Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the diced fennel and cook a few minutes until softened, scraping up any browned bits from the pan. Add the garlic and crushed fennel seeds.

3 Return meat to pan, add milk, cream, rosemary, cook until tender: Add the meat back into the pot. Add the milk and cream. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, add the sprig of rosemary, cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until meat is tender.

4 Cook the farro: While the lamb is cooking, prepare the farro (or brown rice). The farro will take about 45 minutes to cook, after which it can be kept warm, so time accordingly.

Rinse farro through a sieve until the water runs clear. Add it to a large, thick-bottomed saucepan. Cover with about two inches of water and add about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, partially cover and let cook for 45 minutes or until tender.

Drain of excess water and set aside until you are ready to use it.

5 Remove lamb from pot, reduce sauce: Once the lamb is tender, remove the pieces from the pot and set aside. Discard the rosemary. Bring the milk cream sauce to a boil over high heat and reduce to about 2 cups.

6 Purée sauce, toss with lamb: Working in batches, purée in a blender (or with an immersion blender) until smooth. (When puréeing hot liquids in a blender it's best to work with relatively small amounts, filling just maybe a quarter of the blender. Otherwise the pressure can blow the top off the blender and make a hot mess.)

Return the sauce and the lamb to the pot and if needed heat until warm through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Before serving, stir in the fresh chopped parsley.

Serve the braised lamb over warm farro.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to Lamb Braised in Milk with Fennel on Simply Recipes. Thank you!


If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Adapted from Mario Batali's Lamb Braised in Milk with Garlic and Fennel and Joanna Smith's Milk-braised Lamb with Fennel.


Heather's Farro Recipe from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

Milk braised pork chops from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen

Pork Loin Braise in Milk Bolognese Style from Cooking Italy

Lamb Braised in Milk with Farro

Showing 4 of 20 Comments / Reviews

  • Marthinus

    Made this in a presure cooker. Came out perfectly. 40 minutes and it was done. I added a squeeze of lemon juice and it elevated this dish tremendously. Give each guest a lemon slice on the plate. Thank you. It was wonderful

  • Renee

    Hi Elise! This is my first time commenting (shameface) but your website is our go-to and everything has always turned out absolutely delicious. Super late in the game but, I started this recipe and forgot that we don’t have cream or half and half, which is what I’ve used before for it. I just have milk, but I also have creme fraiche and was wondering if that would work as a substitute? I know the consistency isn’t the same, but I figure it’ll reduce in the braise anyway. No worries if you don’t see this in time!

  • Gaelle

    What a great recipe! I would keep a few pieces of fennel instead of pureeing all…just for the sake of texture and presentation.
    Would it work with veal?

    Haven’t tried it with veal, but if you do, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  • jane

    Lamb is a favorite in our house – and barley makes a great combination with most lamb dishes in case you can’t find farro. I do plan to try this. In Venezuela we cook lamb in coconut milk, but the seasonings are quite different.

    Yep, farro reminds me a lot of barley too. Love the idea of cooking lamb in coconut milk, care to share the seasonings you would use? ~Elise

  • Suzanne

    This looks delicious. Do you think it could be made with lamb shanks instead of lamb shoulder? I have some lamb shanks in my fridge and am looking for a way to cook them.

    Lamb shanks may take longer to cook before they are tender, but other than that, should work fine. If they are bone-in, you might try cooking the dish bone-in just for kicks (and added flavor). ~Elise

View More Comments / Leave a Comment
Lamb Braised in Milk with FarroLamb Braised in Milk with Fennel