Lamb Braised in Milk with Fennel

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

Lamb Braised in Milk with Farro
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

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings 5 to 6 servings

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 extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 fennel bulb, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

  • 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.

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

Lamb Braised in Milk with Farro
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
559 Calories
28g Fat
30g Carbs
46g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 559
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 10g 52%
Cholesterol 150mg 50%
Sodium 333mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 46g
Vitamin C 9mg 46%
Calcium 163mg 13%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 909mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.