Penne with Lamb Ragu

penne lamb ragu

The lovely folks from 3-Corner Field Farm will be away from the Greenmarket until June after this Saturday, so we made sure to stock up on lamb when we were there last weekend. We got a big package of ground lamb, part of which we’ve frozen, and the rest of which I made into a super tasty lamb ragu last night.

As much as I love a classic Ragu Bolognese, I think this sauce might be my new favorite meat sauce for pastas. The lamb had a hint of sweetness, and was rich without being too heavy. Mike gobbled down two helpings of this and has more for lunch today; I polished off my portion quickly, and couldn’t help but sneak spoonfuls of the remaining sauce while I washed the dishes. This stuff might be addictive.

Lamb Ragu

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb. ground lamb
1 cup white wine
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice (I used San Marzanos)
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a mixture of flat-leaf parsley, thyme and rosemary)
Kosher salt to taste

Add olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot and warm over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and a good pinch of salt, and allow them to cook until softened. Add tomato paste and allow to cook for a minute, and then stir it through the vegetables. Add the lamb and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until it has lost its red color. Add the wine, tomatoes, chile flakes and half of the herbs. Stir well, breaking up the tomatoes, and then allow to simmer uncovered for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce has cooked down to a thick ragu, and much of the liquid evaporated, turn off the heat, taste for salt and adjust if necessary, and stir in the remaining chopped herbs.


I had my pasta water boiling away for most of the time the sauce was cooking so it was ready to go when the sauce was nearly finished. I removed all but about 2-3 cups of sauce from the pot once it was finished and added a ladleful of pasta water to the remaining sauce in the pot. I cooked a 500g bag of imported penne rigate until it was just short of al dente, and I added about half of the cooked pasta to the sauce to allow it to finish cooking.* When the pasta was al dente and coated with the ragu, I spooned it into shallow bowls and finished each with a dollop of ricotta and a little more of the herb mixture I had used in the sauce. The ricotta imparts a nice creaminess to the sauce as it melts into it, but I think grated Pecorino Romano would be great with this as well.

*I often make more pasta than we will need for a dish and freeze what is left over. Since the pasta isn’t quite cooked through, it reheats pretty well, and is a nice thing to have on hand on those days when I’m feeling crummy enough that I can’t make it in to work and want to put together a quick lunch. I generally run the bag of pasta under some water to thaw it a bit then toss it in a sauté pan with some butter or olive oil, halved grape tomatoes, garlic and herbs, and a bit of grated cheese at the end.

4 thoughts on “Penne with Lamb Ragu

  1. I was looking around a few weeks ago for lamb ragu recipes; I’d found the Mark Bittman one, but I wanted something that took a little longer.

    I ended up combining ideas from both recipes, and have now made it twice, once with white wine, once with red, and both times, using 1/2 cup of wine and, at the end, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, which I think makes all the difference. Next time, I’ll remember to pick up some ricotta, because I think that would be great in here as well.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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