Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lamb Ragu


If you need to give yourself something to look forward to this winter, make like an Italian grandmother and whip up a big pot of ragu.  Just don’t tell your Italian grandmother you're making lamb ragu, and a recipe from a fancy-pants New York chef at that.  So maybe it’s not all that authentic, but you have to try Andrew Carmellini’s recipe for lamb ragu from Urban Italian.  All it takes is about 15 minutes of effort, and then you can sit on your couch for a few hours watching Seinfeld re-runs as your kitchen emanates aromas that will warm your entire home.  Try your best to pick up lamb meat from the shoulder—grind your own or ask your butcher to grind it— as the leaner cuts of meat will not be as tender.  It's also worth the effort to scrounge around for canned cherry tomatoes which have a sweet quality that complements lamb nicely.  

Lamb Ragu 
Adapted from Urban Italian

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs ground lamb, preferably from the shoulder
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups  dry red wine
  • 1 cup canned cherry or San Marzano tomatoes 
  • 3 cups chicken brother
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb fresh pappardelle
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped
  • sheep-milk ricotta cheese, for serving 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the lamb to the pot.  As the lamb cooks, break it apart with the back of a wooden spoon.  Stir the lamb occasionally until it is browned, about 5 minutes.   If necessary, pour out any excess liquid that accumulates the pot as you cook the lamb; the liquid will steam, rather than brown, the lamb. 
  3. Add the carrot, celery, and onion to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir well for 1 minute.
  5. Pour the red wine into the pot.  Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring the wine to a boil and cook until the wine evaporates completely, about 5 minutes.  
  6. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, fennel, red pepper flakes, thyme, and rosemary to the pot.  Stir well to incorporate the ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Bring the ragu to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook the sauce until the ingredients are well incorporated and the excess liquid has evaporated, about 2 hours.  Taste the ragu for salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat.
  8. Cook the pappardelle in boiling salted water until it is al dente.  Drain the pasta and add it to the ragu.
  9. Add the butter and mint to the pasta and stir it well until the ragu clings to the noodles.  Serve the pasta immediately, topped with a drizzle of olive oil, the grated pecorino, and a dollop of ricotta cheese.   

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