Lamb Ragu with Fresh Rigatoni

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  • recipe image cover
  • recipe image cover






Almost ten years ago I was in Europe for the very first time. It was the dark of winter and I was on the way from Nîmes, France to Florence, Italy. I couldn’t find a good sleeper ticket so my connection left me in the freezing night of Turin, Italy. For hours.

Turin is known as one of the great magical cities. I don’t mean that in the romantic sense… I mean that they believe that black and white magic abound in the city that is crossed with “Ley Lines”. It lends itself to an aura of mystery. The streets were empty because the cold had a wind to it that cut through to under your clothes. So I wandered around at night through the giant squares as my next train was hours away. Being raised in the temperate San Francisco Bay Area I don’t think I knew what cold meant until that night.

My salvation came from a dim little restaurant that seemed to have some dregs of regulars left inside. It’s dim yellow light piercing my view as I wandered over. Only one dish was left to serve as they had run out of the rest: a meat ragu sauce with penne. Up until that point all the sauces I had were mostly American affairs. Closer to heated and blended Salsa with meat than the heartier versions from the European continent. As it came to the table I was in heaven. It tasted hearty, bold, and I scooped every last bit up with my bread.

Being a cold winter weekend I was in the mood to recreate the passion I felt that night at home. This isn’t a recipe to rush and is best done when you have many other things to do at home that day.

I also made a batch of fresh pasta for it but a good box of Italian dried will do just fine. I would recommend a heavier pasta then a Spaghetti to offset the body of the sauce so I made a Rigatoni.

The following is based off a modified recipe of Matthew Accarrino. It really is a modified braise technique but instead of a stew we’re making sauce.


Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Pounds Lamb Shoulder, Shanks, or Other Yummy Bits
1 Yellow Onion, diced large
2 Celery Stalks, diced large
One Garlic Head, halved Crosswise
A Saschet With:
10 black pepercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig
1 cup white wine
4 cups water
1/3 cup yellow onion, fine diced
2 pinches dried red pepper flakes
2 tablesppons tomato paste
1 cup diced bell peppers
1/4 cup soffritto
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes (canned is fine)
* Click to ingredient to choose one


Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and then prepare the ingredients in the list.
Make sure you have a dutch oven at hand. I used a big oval one for this but you can you smaller one in batches.
Salt and pepper the lamb on both sides.
In batches brown the lamb on all sides in the dutch oven for about 2 minutes (per side).
Remember this is a braise so we’re less concerned about meat temperature at its core.
Take the meat out and put it somewhere clean and safe at room temp.
Pour out any excess grease from the heavy pot to remove.
Add the large diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic. and saschet to the pan and soften. About 2-3 minutes.
Then pour in the one cup of white wine and deglaze the pan.
Take your lamb meat and put it in the pot. Pour in the four cups of water. Bring to a simmer.
Then cover the pot and put it in your pre-heated oven. This will take 3-4 hours until the meat falls off the bone.
So here is where the patience comes in. The point of braising meat it to turn all that connective tissue into gelatin. When that happens you get that amazing mouth feel and consistency. But it is even better when you cool it down. Once cooled it doesn’t break apart as easily when reheated.
Take the pot out and let it cool for a few hours. Watch a long movie.
When it is done take the meat out and chop off the extra fat, bone, and less yummy bits.
Then cut it into 3/4 inch cubes.
Strain the braising liquid into tall pot and reduce it until it is about 4 cups. You’ll need 1 1/2 cups for the ragu, so if your pot had a leaky lid some of this may be done for you already.
Clean your dutch oven if you haven’t already. You’ll need it to finish the sauce.
Heat a thin film of olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
Throw the fine diced onion in until soft and dash in the red pepper flakes.
Then stir in the tomato paste and cook until it goes to the color of brick red. Which is about 2 – 3 minutes.
Stir in the bell peppers and soften for another 10 minutes.
Add the Soffrito and heat through.
Pour in the 1/2 cup of wine and reduce it by half.
Now add the crushed tomatoes and simmer until it is a lot thicker which is about 5 minutes.
Now pour in that 1 1/2 cups of braising liquid and simmer.
Cook for about 10 minutes to bring everything together.
Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the cut lamb and let sit uncovered for about 30 minutes but preferably a day in the fridge. I waited a whole day and it was painful but worth it.
Mix with a heavier pasta that with hold up to the ragu like a rigatoni.