A slowly braised lamb ragu sauce, perfect for serving over gnocchi, polenta, or your favorite pasta for the coziest winter dinner! Be sure to check out the Recipe Notes for slow cooker instructions.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 ½ pounds American lamb shoulder, excess fat trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup good red wine (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 8–10 sprigs fresh thyme
- optional: ¼ cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to season
- for serving: gnocchi or pasta of choice, grated parmesan, fresh basil or parsley for garnish
- Brown the lamb: Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat. Using paper towel, pat the lamb as dry as possible, then season generously with 1 teaspoon each Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Working in batches as needed, add the lamb to the Dutch oven. Cook the lamb until deeply browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan – it prevents browning! Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside. At this point, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Cook the aromatics: Reduce the heat under the Dutch oven to medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery, seasoning with 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened and deeply caramelized, about 10-12 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add in the tomato paste, stirring to combine, and cook for another minute or two to caramelize.
- 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.
- Braise: Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven to braise at 325 degrees F for 2-2 ½ hours. When it’s ready, the lamb should shred very easily. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the herbs, then shred the lamb – 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. Stir to combine. At this point you can serve, set aside, or even freeze for later use.
- Serve: Bring a pot of salty water to a boil and cook the gnocchi or pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, as the gnocchi boils, finish the ragu. Add the ragu to a small skillet over medium high heat, about ½ cup ragu per serving. Drizzle in some heavy cream, about 1 tablespoon per serving. Stir to combine, then add in the cooked gnocchi or pasta. Toss to combine, then let cook for 1-2 minutes for everything to come together. Serve immediately, sprinkled with grated parmesan & fresh herbs, as desired. Enjoy!
- Lamb: When it comes to buying lamb, it’s so important to choose American lamb, vs imported. It’s not only fresher, but buying American also supports the local ranchers & family farms across the country who are committed to the quality & welfare of their animals. Be sure to ask your butcher where they source their lamb, or check out the American Lamb Board’s website for more details. They have a full list of distributors & farmers throughout the country!
- Red wine helps add so much richness to this braised lamb ragu! No need to break the bank here, but use a drinkable medium-bodied dry red wine. A good Chianti is always my go-to!
- Slow cooker: This braised lamb ragu recipe is slow cooker-friendly, though I have a strong preference for braising it as written. Braising pulls out so much more flavor! If braising doesn’t fit in your schedule, slow cooking will work, but be sure to try the braised version at some point! To slow cook, sear the lamb and cook the aromatics according to Steps 1-2 of Recipe Directions. Transfer everything to a slow cooker with all remaining listed ingredients, tomato paste through herbs. Slow cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, until the lamb shreds easily. Serve according to Step 5 of Recipe Directions.
- Freezing lamb ragu: Lamb ragu is super freezer friendly. Make a double batch, or freeze any leftovers for an easy dinner later on. Transfer cooled lamb ragu to a freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and serve according to Step 5 of Recipe Directions.
Keywords: braised lamb ragu, lamb ragu, braised lamb, ragu sauce