The base of this recipe—braised lamb ragu—is a classic starting off point for pasta sauce and can be riffed on in a bunch of ways, depending on the season or occasion. This one features Castelveltrano olives; last winter's rendition had thyme and persimmons.; next up, I'm thinking orange and oregano.
For the Lamb Marinade
- olive oil
- fresh rosemary or thyme
- salt & pepper
- 2 shanks from pastured lambs
For the Ragu
- olive oil
- white or yellow onion, chopped
- 3-5 garlic cloves, peels and sliced
- 4 salt-packed anchovy fillets, split and de-spined
- 1 dry bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 quart veggie stock, or as needed *Make a quick, but robust veggie stock by simmering carrots, onion, celery, potato, parsley and garlic for a couple hours in a stockpot of water*
- 1 can or jar of whole tomatoes, crushed
- 1 sprig rosemary
For Finishing & Saucing and Serving
- Castelvetrano Olives, chopped and pitted* (Kalamata, Nicoise, Taggiasche are all fine to sub!) *To quickly pitt olives, smash a few at a time with the back of a chef’s knife The pitt easily separates from the olive flesh.
- Italian Parsley, chopped
- Fresh Mint, chopped
- good olive oil
- Pecorino, grated
- Fresh flat-noodle pasta, like tagliatelle, fettuccine or pappardelle.
- Marinate lamb for 4 hours up to overnight in marinating mixture
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Heat a couple glugs of good olive oil in a large Dutch or French oven pan, once hot, sear lamb on each side until brown, then set aside.
- Add more olive oil and saute chopped onions until soft and translucent. Add sliced garlic and stir for a minute. Add bay leaf and anchovies and a pinch of salt.
- Clear an empty spot in the center of the pot and add tomato paste, stirring to caramelize. Add wine and turn up the heat, boil the wine for a few minutes until it reduced by half.
- Add tomatoes and stir for a few minutes to meld flavors, and then add the seared lamb. Add stock until all but the top inch of the lamb is submerged. Cover the pot tightly with foil and then a snug lid and put it in the oven for 3 ½ hours, by then the lamb should be falling off the bone. Set aside and let cool, then fork-tear the meat into small pieces, taking care to remove any sinew bits.
- To make the ragu, strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a large deep-sided fry pan, large enough to toss the sauce along with the cooked pasta. *Save the skins, herbs and tomato flesh that remains—these scraps are delicious served warm alongside meat or fish, or tossed with fresh herbs and spaghetti, they hold up well as a sauce of their own.
- Skim the fat off the top, then bring the liquid to a simmer and add in torn lamb pieces.
- At this point, freeze or fridge the ragu until you’re ready to serve the finished pasta.
- Finished Pasta: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, bring lamb ragu to a simmer.
- Once the pasta is ready, but still al-dente, transfer it and a cup of the pasta water to the ragu pot. Toss the pasta, water and ragu with the chopped olives, parsley, mint. Finally toss with grated pecorino and salt and pepper to taste.