Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lamb Ragu with Pasta

I've been enjoying a local French restaurant lately, Plan B, right here in Sacramento. They often have a ragu on their daily special menu, sometimes rabbit or duck ragu, perhaps venison or lamb. What they all have in common is a wonderful melding of flavors, based on that trifecta of French cooking: carrots, onions, and celery, then bound together with spices and the deep color of red wine and tomatoes. The ragu at Plan B is a trade secret, an old family recipe, and is a dish that is as beautiful as it is delicious. My recipe is a best guess, based on a recipe I found at Wine Spectator magazine, then tweaked to taste like the ragu at my local French restaurant. If you make your own pasta, here's a wonderful way to use it. I didn't, but I did purchase fresh pasta, the next best thing.


1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup red wine
12 oz diced cooked lamb, hard fatty deposits removed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup diced sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup diced fennel
1 tsp thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pinch - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
up to 1/2 tsp salt
12 oz fresh pasta noodles
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions: Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften, and the onion looks translucent. Add the tomato paste and red wine and cook another 2 minutes or so, just until the wine evaporates. Reduce the heat to medium low, adding the lamb along with the chicken broth, tomatoes, fennel, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and coriander. Simmer over medium low heat for about 30 - 45 minutes, until the broth thickens and becomes a deep reddish brown. Taste the sauce, adding peppers and salt as needed.

While the ragu simmers, cook the fresh pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, then add it to the pan with thefinished ragu. Gently mix together. Serve, topping each serving with some of the Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

Stealthy Cooking Tip: The carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes, and fennel cook down into a wonderful melange of vegetables, all flavored by the lamb and spices. If you don't like lamb, this would be equally as good with turkey or pork. Using leftover roast lamb, with the fat removed, significantly reduces the fat content of this dish.

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