PAPPARDELLE WITH LAMB RAGÙ, RICOTTA AND MINT
My friends were teasing me the other night for my frequent use of the word “unctuous” in some of my previous posts. I sure wish I had used a bit more restraint, because if there was ever an adjective to describe this lamb ragù, it would be just that. This is the kind of hearty pasta dish that I crave during the cold winter months. Not only does it fill your home with the warm, inviting scent of spice-braised lamb, but the resulting sauce is as fine as any you will find coming out of a restaurant kitchen. The best part? It can be made a full day ahead of when you plan on serving it.
This recipe is an adaptation of one I’ve made in the past from chef Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde in New York. Where the Food and Wine recipe calls for the use of ground lamb and a quick simmer, I opt to slow-braise chunks of lamb shoulder or stew meat over a few hours for a more rustic finished sauce. Either way you decide to go, you’ll find that the combination of the savory lamb ragù, creamy ricotta cheese and herbaceous mint is a truly spectacular one. It’s definitely worth your time to seek out pappardelle if you can find it at your local grocery store or Italian deli. The long, ribbon-like noodles are quite sturdy when cooked properly and provide the perfect companion for thick, meat-laden sauces like this one. If you’re a fan of lamb in any capacity, give this recipe a try — I promise you won’t be disappointed.
PAPPARDELLE WITH LAMB RAGÙ, RICOTTA AND MINT
The secret behind an intense, flavor-packed ragù like this one comes from the methodical layering of flavor. Take your time while searing the lamb, making sure to achieve a rich brown color on all sides before moving on to the next batch. I personally like to use bone-in stew meat for this sauce because the marrow and extra connective tissue contribute another dimension of lamby-richness to the final sauce — just be sure to remove any bones prior to dressing the pappardelle. Whatever you do, do not overcrowd the pan. You want the lamb to have the opportunity to fry in the olive oil, not poach in its own juices. I like to tie the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf together with a bit of kitchen twine for easy removal at the end of braising. When sautéing the vegetables, be sure to drive away as much moisture as possible before caramelizing the tomato paste and deglazing with the wine. This step ensures a deeper tomato flavor and helps promote the development of a rich fond. Finally, as with all pasta, be sure to boil the pappardelle in an abundance of well-salted water.
- 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes or 3 pounds bone-in lamb stew meat
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 rib of celery, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 branches of fresh rosemary
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3/4 pound pappardelle
- 3/4 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped mint
- Preheat the oven to 300°. In a small bowl, combine the coriander, fennel and cumin to create a fragrant spice rub. Lighly season the lamb on both sides with Kosher salt and sprinkle the meat evenly with the spice rub.
- Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over moderately-high heat. In batches sear the lamb on all sides until richly browned, about 10 minutes per batch. Remove the browned meat to a plate and repeat with the remaining lamb.
- Add the carrot, onion and celery to the reserved oil/fat in the pan and sauté the vegetables until just beginning to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Stir often to prevent scorching. Push the vegetables to the side of the pot to create a hot-spot in the center. Add the tomato paste and stir constantly until it becomes a few shades darker and releases its bright red oils, about 3 minutes. Stir to combine the tomato paste and vegetables.
- Add the wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Allow the wine to reduce until almost completely evaporated before adding in the tomatoes, stock, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Return the browned lamb to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover tightly and place the pot in the oven. Braise the lamb for 3 hours, checking periodically to make sure that the liquid is not reducing too quickly. Replinish the pot with additional stock or water if the lamb looks like it is getting too dry.
- Remove the pot from the oven and allow the sauce to cool slightly before skimming off any accumulated fat. Now is the time to remove any bones. Season the sauce to taste with Kosher salt. The ragù can be refrigerated overnight at this point.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well and add the pasta to the sauce. Toss gently to dress the pasta with the ragù, breaking up any large chunks of lamb into smaller, bite-size pieces. Serve the pasta in bowls and top with ricotta cheese and chopped mint.