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Braised Lamb Ragu Pappardelle shown in pasta bowls, topped with grated parmesan & fresh parsley. The bowls sit atop a light blue surface next to fresh herbs, 2 glasses of red wine & a grey striped linen napkin.

Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.8 from 36 reviews
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes (includes inactive time)
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Braise, Stovetop, Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Succulent lamb shoulder is slowly braised with onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, & hardy herbs, yielding an intensely flavorful Braised Lamb Ragu Sauce, perfectly paired with pappardelle, gnocchi, polenta, or any pasta you love! Slow cooker & Instant Pot directions provided in the Recipe Notes!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ pounds lamb shoulder, excess fat trimmed and diced into 1-inch cubes (see Recipe Notes)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine (such as Chianti)
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 810 sprigs fresh thyme
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to season

for Braised Lamb Ragu Pasta:

  • 1624 ounces pasta (pappardelle, bucatini, rigatoni, etc.) or gnocchi
  • 1/41/3 cup grated parmesan (roughly 1 tablespoon per serving)
  • ¼1/3 cup heavy cream (roughly 1 tablespoon per serving)
  • for serving, as desired: additional grated parmesan, finely chopped fresh herbs, etc.

Instructions

Lamb ragu ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: dried pappardelle nests, onion, beef stock, garlic, bay leaves, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, celery, carrots, wine, herbs & lamb shoulder.

  1. Brown the lamb shoulder: Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium-high heat (I use a 4-qt Dutch oven). Use paper towel to pat the lamb as dry as possible, then season generously with 1 teaspoon each kosher salt & ground black pepper. Add the seasoned lamb to the Dutch oven and cook until deeply browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Work in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the pot, which prevents browning. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside. At this point, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Browned lamb shoulder in a large Dutch oven atop a light blue surface.
  2. Cook the aromatics: Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pot & reduce the heat to medium. Once the oil is hot & shimmers, add in the onion, carrots, and celery, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened & deeply browned, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, stirring to coat the veggies, and cook for 1-2 minutes more, caramelizing the tomato paste. Tomato paste & aromatics mixed into browned soffritto in a large Dutch oven atop a light blue surface.
  3. Deglaze: Slowly pour the red wine into the Dutch oven, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits that have formed at the bottom of the pot – that’s where all the flavor is! Let the red wine reduce by about half (this goes by quickly!), then pour in the beef stock, crushed tomatoes, and the herbs. I like to use kitchen twine to tie them into a little bundle for easy removal. Return the lamb to the Dutch oven. Lamb ragu sauce prior to braising - browned lamb shoulder, & fresh herbs sitting in crushed tomato mixture in large Dutch oven atop a light blue surface.
  4. Braise: Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven to braise for 2 – 2 ½ hours. When it’s ready, the lamb should shred very easily – it’ll be tender enough that you should be able to shred it right in the ragu by using the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Remove & discard the spent bay leaves & herbs. Shred the lamb & stir to combine. At this point, you can cool & store for later use (see Recipe Notes for storage & freezing instructions), or proceed with prepping lamb ragu pappardelle or gnocchi (below).Braised lamb ragu in a large Dutch oven atop a light blue surface.

Braised Lamb Ragu Pasta:

  1. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi or pasta to al dente according to package directions. Before draining, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water & set aside. Carefully drain the pasta (or gnocchi) & set aside – do NOT rinse hot pasta/gnocchi!
  2. Finish the Braised Lamb Ragu sauce: Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, bring the braised lamb ragu to a simmer. Stir in the heavy cream & grated parmesan. Reduce heat to low & continue to simmer, stirring occasionally as needed. Reheating lamb ragu with heavy cream in a small skillet. The skillet sits atop a light blue surface.
  3. Lamb ragu pasta: Add the al dente pasta or gnocchi to the simmering ragu sauce, tossing to coat such that the pasta is evenly coated in sauce. If the ragu is thick & needs to loosen up some, drizzle in some of the reserved starchy pasta water. If the pasta is loose & needs to thicken up some, sprinkle in some extra grated parm. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until the pasta or gnocchi absorbs some of the ragu & the ragu clings to the pasta or gnocchi beautifully. Prepping lamb ragu pappardelle: pappardelle pasta tossed into lamb ragu sauce in a small skillet atop a light blue surface.
  4. Serve: Portion the lamb ragu pasta into individual pasta bowls. Finish with some grated parm or finely chopped herbs as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!Lamb ragu pappardelle in a small skillet atop a light blue surface.

Notes

  • Lamb: My preferred cut of lamb for this braised lamb ragu is lamb shoulder, though lamb shanks will work very well, too. Because of the long cooking time involved, avoid lean cuts like lamb chops. If you prefer to use ground lamb, I suggest modeling your ragu after my Best-Ever Bolognese recipe
  • Make-ahead, storage, & freezing:
    • Storage: Lamb ragu sauce stores incredibly well – it gets better & better as the flavors meld together over time! To store, prep the lamb ragu sauce through Step 4 of Recipe Directions, above. Cool completely & transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Finish your ragu according to Steps 1-4 of “Braised Lamb Ragu Pasta” directions, above. Easy!
    • Freezing lamb ragu: Lamb ragu is also very freezer-friendly. You can make a double batch of this recipe, or freeze any leftovers for an easy dinner down the road. To freeze, transfer cooled lamb ragu sauce to a freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen ragu in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in cool water for an even quicker thaw. Finish your ragu according to Steps 1-4 of “Braised Lamb Ragu Pasta” directions, above. Previously frozen lamb ragu will be a little watery at first, which is totally fine & expected – simply let excess water simmer out before adding in the heavy cream & parmesan. 
  • Alternative cooking methods:
    • Slow cooker or Crockpot: Prepare the recipe according to Steps 1-3, above. Transfer the browned lamb shoulder, deglazed soffritto, & all remaining sauce ingredients as directed in Step 3 to a slow cooker. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours until the lamb shoulder is fall-apart tender. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook this entire lamb ragu recipe (Steps 1-4) in the slow cooker. Finish as directed in “Braised Lamb Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4. Enjoy!
    • Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker: Use the Instant Pot’s “Sauté” setting to cook the recipe according to Steps 1-3, above. Cover & seal the pressure cooker. Cook on manual high pressure for 45 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes before carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position to vent out any residual pressure. Finish as directed in “Braised Lamb Ragu Pasta” Steps 1-4. Enjoy!