Lamb makes a wonderful sauce to splash over pasta, or better yet, cheese-filled tortellini. This version of ragú is wonderfully complex, with a deliciously interesting combination of herbs and spices. This is company fare. Every now and then, The Goddess gets a hankering for lamb. Grilled chops or a leg of lamb are always a high on my list of good things, but ground lamb is incredibly flexible and delicious. I ran across the original recipe in Saveur – Issue 191 magazine. It was part of an interesting article on the joys of hand-made pasta. It’s very much worth a read. I’ve made ragù sauce before using beef or a combination of beef and pork. And other than the lamb, the addition of fennel, Meyer lemon and spices lead us down a different flavor path.
For the sauce, simmer the tomatoes, minced garlic, the bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg and olive oil, about 10 minutes. It will reduce slightly.
In a large pot, add oil, the garlic, onion, fennel, and carrot and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest, herbs, and crushed red pepper. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lamb, breaking it up into small pieces; season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced slightly, 2–3 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and the chicken stock to the lamb. Simmer and cook until the meat is tender and the sauce is reduced by half, about 3 hours. I serve this over pasta, rice or polenta.
Spicy Lamb Ragù
- 2 cups puréed (fire-roasted, if possible) tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated fresh nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
- 2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons finely julienned Meyer lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes (optional)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup finely chopped fennel, fronds and all
- 1 carrot, finely shredded
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup dry red wine (a Barolo is particularly nice)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 pound pasta, cooked until just al dente
- Shredded Pecorino, to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, the bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 tablespoon olive oil; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, add the remaining oil, the garlic, the onion, fennel, and carrot; raise the heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest, herbs, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lamb, breaking it up into small pieces; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced slightly, 2–3 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and the chicken stock to the lamb. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the meat is tender and the sauce is reduced by half, about 3 hours.
When you’re ready to serve, cook the pasta until just al dente; drain well. Add some spoonfuls of ragù to each serving and top with 2 tablespoons of pecorino; toss gently to coat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of pasta water, if needed, to loosen the sauce. Garnish with more pecorino and serve immediately.
Adapted every so slightly from Saveur, Issue 191.