I recently found a new farm at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market that raises and sells some of the best lamb I’ve ever cooked or eaten, Hedgeapple Farm. They raise Icelandic and Icelandic Cross sheep for meat and fiber. They were the perfect new vendor to try since I’d had a ragù recipe on my mind for a few months before that Saturday trip to the market. I’d had a “shepherd” pasta in Italy during my trip in 2004 and then a similar, but richer version at Cafe Dodici in Washington, IA, a few years later. The idea is simple: cook some ground lamb with some herbs, wine, a little tomato and the finish it off with cream, or in this case, mascarpone.
I made this the first time with local roma tomatoes (also from the market), but wanted to get a second opinion before I posted this recipe here, so I made it again over Christmas for my family. The second time I used a large can of whole, peeled roma tomatoes. I took the tomatoes out and broke them up with my hand before adding them to the sauce, but reserved the tomato juice to use in another recipe. My family really likes this dish, even my sister, despite her and my typical aversion to ground meats. I served it with shaved Pecorino Romano and hard apple cider which are perfect accompaniments. The first time I served it over homemade egg noodles, but for my family I cheated and bought an artisan-style egg noodle.
One tip that I saw on the The Kitchn that I’m using all the time now is to freeze a tomato that you want to peel and let it thaw slowly and the peel will slip right off. That’s how I processed the roma tomatoes that I used this fall. Also, if you’re not up for making fresh pasta yourself, buy the widest and thinnest home-style egg noodle you can buy. I like bionaturae’s pappardelle when I’m in a hurry.
Lamb Ragù with Wide Noodles
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 1b roma tomatoes (peeled)
- 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs celery leaves, chopped
- 2 large leaves fresh sage, chopped
- 1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped and stems discarded
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1/4 cup mascarpone
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb fresh pasta (see notes above)
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and when hot, add the oil and red chili flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds and then add the lamb and break up the lamb into small pieces with a wooden spoon/spatula.
- When the lamb is mostly cooked and browning a little add the onions and carrot and cook until the onion is soften. Add the garlic, herbs and celery leaves and stir well. Cook for a few minutes.
- Add the wine and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the broken up tomatoes and turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Check occasionally to ensure that the sauce hasn’t reduced too much.
- Add the mascarpone, about 1 tsp of fresh black pepper and salt to taste. Stir well and remove from the heat. Toss with the cooked pasta and add a little pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
- Serves about 4-6 people.