Lamb Ragu Pasta Sauce

IMG_8519This recipe has quite a few steps and takes some time. Plan it for a cold and rainy day. It smells absolutely wonderful as it cooks. The flavor that is created by the initial searing and then the slow cooking is totally worth the efforts!

It is also a great recipe for letting fresh herbs shine. Add plenty – I put 1/4 cup in the ingredients list, but I usually add a lot more.

And save herbs for garnishing the bowls while serving – the bright freshness of the herbs contrasts beautifully with the warm developed flavor of the sauce. I really like bright herbs like parsley or basil here. Basil Micro Greens are particularly great for those times of year when you may not have fresh plants growing in the garden. Check out our Micro-Green Growing Video!

As always, it is very important to purchase meat from trustworthy and organic sources. You want meat from farms who treat their animals respectfully and feed them what is appropriate for their species not what is cheapest for their bottom line. Lamb are quite easy to keep almost 100% on grass, it is fine if the farm occasionally feeds grain especially for pregnant and lactating ewes, who need a bit more nutrition. For our Farm Dinner, we purchased our lamb from Jamison Farm.


2-4 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 pounds of lamb – I use the shoulder cuts which are quite inexpensive
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a sprinkle of onion powder (optional)

3-5 carrots, finely chopped
3-4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped mushrooms (optional)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
at least a 1/4 cup of fresh chopped herbs – rosemary, sage, oregano, and/or thyme
1 tsp of chili flakes, or a pinch of cayenne powder, or a bit of chopped hot chili
1/2 cup of dry wine – can be red or white
2 large cans (28 ounce) of diced tomatoes or the equivalent in fresh tomatoes

Fresh herbs to garnish (optional) Parsley, Basil, or Micro-Basil are lovely
Start by rinsing and blotting dry the lamb. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and onion powder.

Heat up a large heavy pot or dutch oven. Add the oil to the pot and heat until shimmering.

A note here – you can easily double or triple this recipe – you would just do the lamb in stages. Even with 2-3 pounds of lamb shoulder, you may not be able to fit it all in one layer – so just sear the lamb in several stages.

Using tongs, place the meat in a single layer in the oil and sear well – about 3-4 minutes – until well-browned. Then flip over and sear the other side the same way. Then sear the edges for 30 seconds or so for each area in contact with the pot. Keep heat high – you want to hear the meat sizzle each time you start searing a new section. It will get smokey.

Once seared all over, place the meat in a covered bowl and continue until all your lamb is seared.

Turn your heat down now to medium low. Add the chopped carrot, celery, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and herbs. Use a flat sided spoon. As the juices are expelled from the vegetables, use the flat edge of your spoon to deglaze the fond, or browned goodness left from searing the lamb from the bottom of the pot. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir often.

Return the lamb back into the pot now along with all the juice left in the bowl. Turn up the heat again, and once everything is sizzling strongly, pour the wine in. It should make a lot of noise. Stir and scrape the bottom. Cook for about 2 minutes or so and then add the tomatoes. Bring it toa boil, and then turn down the heat to low, cover partially, and cook, lightly simmering, for about 3 hours.

IMG_1107Turn off the heat. The lamb should be falling off the bone. Carefully move it, using tongs, into a clean bowl and let cool a bit.

Once the meat is cool enough to handle, pull it apart and shred it. You want it be like a pulled pork size rather than chunks so it spreads consistently throughout the sauce. I usually use my hands for this – plus with shoulder cuts you can get loose (and sharp!) bone pieces which you want to be sure are all removed. I usually stir though the sauce carefully checking for bones as well.



Toss the bones and add the meat back into the sauce. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve over a pasta that allows the thick sauce to cling to it – I love radiatori or fusilli with this although it is classic to serve with a pappardelle. And it is stunning with mafalde!

You can add grated cheese if you want as well!


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