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Cut off the netting on the lamb and remove all the silver skin. Dice the lamb into ½-inch pieces. Leave some of the fat on the meat for some extra flavor. Any good butcher will do this for you upon request. Season the meat well with salt and fresh ground pepper. Dust with all-purpose flour until there is no more visible moisture.
Heat a large sauté pan and add ½ cup of the olive oil. Shake off excess flour and sear the lamb in small uncrowded batches. Remove when well caramelized on all sides and allow allow to drain its excess fat on a plate lined with a paper towel. Lamb should be visibly crispy, but not burnt.
When all the lamb is cooked, deglaze the pan with the red wine and let it reduce by half.
In a separate pot, sweat out the onions, celery, and carrots with 1 tablespoon of the oil for about 5 minutes until lightly caramelized. Add in the red wine reduction from the sauté pan and follow with the tomatoes, tomato juice, herbs, and the cooked lamb. Simmer, covered, on low heat for about an hour or until the lamb is tender. A good test is to take a piece and if you can "smush" it with the back of a spoon with very little force on the countertop it’s done.
Season the ragù with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a little chicken stock. If it's too thin, reduce it a little more uncovered. Remove the bay leaves and set aside until ready to use.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. In a separate sauté pan, heat up 2 cups of the ragù. Add the red pepper flakes and the butter. Stir until butter is emulsified into the sauce. Add the fresh chopped parsley, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce and grate fresh Parmesan on top.
Bucatini with Lamb Ragù
In a spice grinder, grind the peppercorns, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds, and salt. Place lamb neck on a rimmed baking sheet and rub the salt mixture all over. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cure the meat for 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the meat, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the lamb in a single layer. Sear the lamb on each side until a golden brown crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and sauté the carrots, celery, fennel, and onions in the remaining fat, until tender 8 10 minutes. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and mix until all of the vegetables are well coated.
Pour in the canned tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, squeeze them with your hands to break them apart before adding them in. Add bay leaf, thyme, half of the oregano, and 1/2 cup water stir until incorporated. Add back the seared lamb to the pan including any juices that have accumulated. Reduce the heat and cover simmer until the meat is tender and falls off the bone, about 4 hours.
While the meat is braising, in a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, lemon zest, olive oil, and salt. Whip until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Chill until ready to serve.
In a small saucepan over low heat, sauté the slivered garlic, remaining oregano (finely chopped), red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic mixture to the ragù or use as a topping to the pasta for serving.
Once the meat is tender and easily pulls off the bone, remove the bay leaf and the lamb neck from the sauce. When cool enough to handle, carefully pull the meat off the bones discard bones. Return the meat back to the sauce, cover, and let simmer until warmed through.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil and season with 2 tablespoons salt.
Cook the pasta according to the al dente package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain pasta.
Add pasta to the Dutch oven, tossing to coat well with the sauce. If the mixture is a bit dry, add some of the reserved cooking water. Add the whipped ricotta and mix gently until combined.
Plate the pasta with extra lamb ragù served on top, a drizzle of garlic oil, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.
Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu
Slowly braised lamb shoulder with hardy veggies, and plenty of herbs to make the perfect, rich & comforting ragu. Perfectly paired with your choice of pasta and of course, Ian Tiago!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 ½ pounds American lamb shoulder, excess fat trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine - We suggest Ian Tiago.
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 8–10 sprigs fresh thyme
- optional: ¼ cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to season
- For serving: gnocchi or pasta of choice, grated parmesan, fresh basil or parsley for garnish
Brown the lamb: Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat. Using paper towel, pat the lamb as dry as possible, then season generously with 1 teaspoon each Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Working in batches as needed, add the lamb to the Dutch oven. Cook the lamb until deeply browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan – it prevents browning! Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside. At this point, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Cook the aromatics: Reduce the heat under the Dutch oven to medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery, seasoning with 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened and deeply caramelized, about 10-12 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add in the tomato paste, stirring to combine, and cook for another minute or two to caramelize.
Deglaze: Slowly pour the red wine into the Dutch oven, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits that have formed at the bottom of the pot – that’s where all the flavor is! Let the red wine reduce by about half (this goes by quickly!), then pour in the beef stock, crushed tomatoes, and the herbs. I like to use kitchen twine to tie them into a little bundle for easy removal. Return the lamb to the Dutch oven.
Braise: Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven to braise at 325 degrees F for 2-2 ½ hours. When it’s ready, the lamb should shred very easily. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the herbs, then shred the lamb – it’ll be tender enough that you should be able to shred it right in the ragu by using the back of a wooden spoon. Stir to combine. At this point you can serve, set aside, or even freeze for later use.
Serve: Bring a pot of salty water to a boil and cook the gnocchi or pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, as the gnocchi boils, finish the ragu. Add the ragu to a small skillet over medium high heat, about ½ cup ragu per serving. Drizzle in some heavy cream, about 1 tablespoon per serving. Stir to combine, then add in the cooked gnocchi or pasta. Toss to combine, then let cook for 1-2 minutes for everything to come together. Serve immediately, sprinkled with grated parmesan & fresh herbs, as desired. Enjoy!
You can serve this delicious lamb ragu with any kind of pasta you like (just as you would Lamb Meatballs).
I’m partial to pappardelle or tagliatelle, but short pasta like rigatoni would also be delicious. (I love to make my own with this quick and easy pasta dough made in the food processor.) It’s also wonderful over rice. I top it in a variety of ways: a sprinkle of sheep’s milk feta, a dollop of ricotta, or shaved Pecorino Romano or parmesan and slivers of fresh basil or mint. If you like a spicy ragu, red pepper flakes add a flavorful heat.
Ina Garten’s Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Ragù Is the Comfort Food We Need
Comfort food is, to many families, countries, and cultures, a spectrum. To some, it may be a soothing platter of macaroni and cheese to others, it’s reaching for a bowl of miso soup, bobbing with hunks of tofu. And to Ina Garten , the hostess queen and Barefoot Contessa, comfort food has long revolved around the ability to not only soothe, but to also bring people together.
That’s the theme of her 12th book, “ Modern Comfort Food .” Here, Ina devotes an entire cookbook to the foods that boast an inherent ability to comfort, a balm to the bad and stressful days and everything in between. The 85 recipes are divided into six sections—cocktails, lunch, dinner, vegetables & sides, dessert, and breakfast—with plenty of familiar favorites and riffs on classic dishes that are even better than you remember.
Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, $21 on Amazon
Expect dishes like crispy chicken with lemon orzo, warm spinach and artichoke dip, cheddar and chutney grilled cheese, and black and white cookies. Alongside the recipes, Ina also makes certain to list what she calls good ingredients—aka, items she recommends not only for these recipes, but to also always have on hand, like fine flaky sea salt, Grey Poupon mustard, and homemade chicken stock.
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Next time you’re in the mood for something comforting, look to Ina’s recipe for baked rigatoni with lamb ragu. She reiterates that no comfort food collection is complete without some kind of baked pasta, and this assemblage calls for one stuffed with plenty of cheese and lamb. The lamb ragù, which is cooked down with onions, carrots, fennel, tomatoes, wine, and spices, is mixed with the cheesy rigatoni, spread into a baking dish, and slipped into the oven. The result is a bubbling mess of tomatoes, cheese, and meat, the pasta crusty on top, yet soft and sticky with cheese inside. Now that’s the kind of comfort food we need this year.
Reprinted from Modern Comfort Food. Copyright © 2020 by Ina Garten. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Ragu Recipe
No collection of comfort foods is complete without some kind of baked pasta—it’s so satisfying. Instead of the usual lasagna, I made this baked rigatoni with a hearty ragù of lamb, tomatoes, and good red wine. With a little mozzarella and Parmesan baked on top, you’ve got a dinner that will make everyone happy.
We took the baking dish out of the oven and sprinkled some parsley on top before serving it to our very excited — and hungry — friends, who thought it had been worth the wait.
The rich sauce had that comforting, traditional Italian taste thanks to the carrots and other vegetables — and it was packed with flavor. And the rigatoni noodles were perfect for capturing a nice helping of ragù with every single bite.
"The melted mozzarella on top of the lamb ragù added the perfect amount of creamy cheesiness, and the lamb was melt-in-your-mouth cooked to perfection," my friend Tyler said. "The sauce was so good."
"The dish reminded me of a cross between bolognese and a baked ziti!" my friend Sara added. "Definitely a labor of love but, to someone not cooking, highly worth it!"
My sous chef Zach also loved the taste, although he didn't agree that it was worth the extra effort.
"As Prue would say on 'The Great British Bake-off,' it was worth the calories — but I wouldn't say it was worth the time," he said. "While it was definitely fun cooking it, I think you could genuinely make a dish that was 90% as good with just focusing on the ragù and broiling the pasta, versus fully baking it."
The cooking process for Garten's baked rigatoni was definitely long, and I agree with Zach that the lamb ragù would make an incredible sauce even without the extra baking time in the oven. But one great thing about this dish is that Garten says you can actually make most of it a day in advance. Just follow all the steps for the ragù and refrigerate it, then bake it just before serving the next day.
And if you don't mind spending a lot of time in the kitchen, a few glasses of red wine and Garten's cooking Spotify playlist will definitely help the time go faster (I speak from experience).
Readers may be able to pinpoint why Rao’s is my go-to marinara sauce…
I like to make pasta at least once a week. It is our go-to comfort food. This week, I decided to use Lamb. This is not a random decision. We try to rotate key ingredients to bring variety not only to our own table but to yours. Traditionally, a ragu is long-cooked. This one takes under an hour. This is because of a simple hack. And it’s Ina Garten approved. She uses store-bought Marinara sauce in lieu of making her own. In this recipe, it not only saves time, but you get all the great seasoning that went into your store-bought jar. I prefer Rao’s but if its price tag puts you off, 365 by Whole Foods is Organic and about ¼ of the price.
Lamb has a significant role in Italy’s Culinary Tradition.
The religious symbolism of lamb can’t be underestimated. In both Christianity and Judaism, the lamb symbolizes sacrifice. To this day, Italians celebrate Easter at a dinner featuring lamb as its centerpiece. It is generally acknowledged that the lamb of Abruzzo is the finest in Italy. Here, shepherds have raised flocks of sheep in its hills and mountains for millennia. What makes Abruzzese lamb so special? The sheep are often left to graze in the wild, rather than being confined. Their diet is filled with herbs, they are leaner, pinker, and have a more subtle taste than the sheep of Umbria or Le Marche. As a result, lamb is relatively expensive. Eating lamb on Easter is a luxury few can afford the rest of the year.
Today’s recipe owes a lot to Abruzzo.Easter Dinner in many Italian households. Diavolino Peppers
The people of Abruzzo have more access to lamb than most Italians. Agnello (lamb) is often turned into a ragu to serve with Abruzzo’s own “pasta alla chitarra’. While most of the ingredients are standard fare—onions, garlic, tomatoes—what sets this pasta sauce apart is its heat and for umani, the addition of anchovies. (Please don’t leave them out—Anchovy haters won’t recognize them). As to the heat, in Abruzzo, the region’s famous chile, the well-named “diavolino” (little devil), is added. Here the heat of the red chile pepper flakes cuts through the fatty lamb beautifully. This is a take on one of Italy’s most delicious (and under-rated) ragùs. Here is the recipe followed by some other takes on lamb.
How to make Lamb Ragu
To make this slow cooked lamb pasta sauce, start by searing the lamb - this helps give a good rich flavor to it. To do this, heat oil in your pan to a high heat and quickly cook the meat a few pieces at a time.
Next, cook the vegetables until soft and then return the lamb to the pan with the passata and water and bring to the boil before adding all the remaining ingredients.
Bring it back to the boil, put the lid on and then put in a low heat oven for around 2.5 hours.
Once it comes out of the oven, use a wooden spoon (or potato masher as my friend does) to break up the lamb a little to create a nice thick sauce.
Remember to remove the parmesan rind and pancetta before serving.
Serve it over pasta (I like rigatoni for this dish, but parpadelle is another popular option).
Rich and Meaty Lamb Ragu
- Calories 306
- Fat 21.1 g (32.5%)
- Saturated 8.3 g (41.6%)
- Carbs 8.6 g (2.9%)
- Fiber 2.5 g (10.1%)
- Sugars 3.2 g
- Protein 13.9 g (27.7%)
- Sodium 498.8 mg (20.8%)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
28-ounce can peeled whole plum tomatoes
Pat the lamb chunks dry with a paper towel. Liberally coat the lamb chunks with salt and pepper and set aside. Peel and coarsely chop the onions, and chop the garlic. Chop the carrot into thin rounds.
Place an oven-proof Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium-high heat, and add olive oil to cover the bottom thinly. When oil is hot, add the lamb and brown deeply. Do this in batches if necessary. Don't worry about drying out the meat — you want it browned darkly for good flavor. (I usually brown each batch for at least 10 minutes, taking care not to crowd the pan. You want the meat to brown, not steam-cook.)
When the meat is thoroughly browned, add the onions. Lower the heat, and cook slowly over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are golden. Add the rosemary and sage, garlic, and the carrots. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
Add wine and continue to simmer until liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in the can with a fork or back of a spoon, then add them and their juices to the pot. Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in a 275-degree oven for 3 to 4 hours. Alternately, put everything in a slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on HIGH or at least 8 hours on LOW. (I have cooked this on LOW for up to 16 hours it's sublime when cooked that long!) The longer it cooks the more tender it will be. When ready to serve, go through with two forks and shred any remaining chunks of meat. Taste and season if necessary with additional salt and pepper.
- 2 tablespoons lamb fat or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- fresh or dried rosemary and thyme, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry red wine or water
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups lamb or chicken stock
- To garnish
- 3/4 cup ricotta or mozzarella cheese
- Chopped basil
In a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron, heat 2 tablespoons of fat or olive oil. Add the diced onions and sweat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the lamb, fennel, cumin, rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste, about 1 teaspoon of each. Cook, stirring, until the most of the moisture evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine and stock to the pot along with the canned tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil then reduce to a steady simmer. Cover partially and cook over low heat until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes.