I once entered into a pasta sauce cooking competition with my team at work. We were to each make a pot of our own homemade sauce and we would be judged by our peers. So I made sauce!! And it was good!! Really good!! And I lost…. The sauce I made was a really fantastic red sauce with small meatballs. Compared to the sauce that won, mine wasn’t particularly hearty and considering I was feeding a team of ten men, it was a big error on my part. I didn’t cook to my audience. I wanted my audience to love what I wanted to make. Lesson learned eh?
I have to say….. If I made THIS sauce, I’m pretty sure it would have been the winner. Now like I said, my original sauce was good and I’ll have to make up a batch and share it but for today we’re going to focus on my lamb ragu. Thick, hearty, meaty and oh so comforting. You know; stick to your ribs kind of sauce.
I have to say, it couldn’t be easier to make. Simple ingredients come together in a not so simple or ordinary sauce. After being cooked for a couple hours the lamb becomes so tender, just falls apart and melts in your mouth. As always ~ good quality ingredients will give you good results. A couple of lamb shanks, a carrot, onion, red wine (one you would drink), shallot, garlic, some herbs and some stock.
The ingredients get slowly cooked until the lamb is tender. Once the lamb is picked from the bone, the heat goes up and the sauce gets reduced. Doing this thickens the sauce and intensifies the flavor. This is another reason we use good quality ingredients. If you’re going to intensify the flavor then the ingredients better be good to start with. Let’s be honest, you start with crap ingredients and then reduce it; all you’re doing is intensifying the crap. Yuck! Good ingredients people. Good ingredients.
The following three photos illustrate the reduction. The first photo was taken just after the lamb was removed from the bone and shredded and placed back in the sauce. The second photo is about a half hour later and the third photo after another half hour. See what a difference the reduction makes?
The last thing to talk about before we get to the recipe is how to serve your lamb ragu…. I have made it into ravioli, served it over rigatoni, over slow cooked polenta (gluten free), and most recently over homemade cavatelli. All good options and I recommend you try them all. They really won’t disappoint.
- 2 lamb shanks approximate 3.5lbs (1.5kg total weight)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- 1 shallot sliced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 bottle red wine
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- Salt to taste
Heat oil on high heat in a sauce pan large enough to fit the two shanks in. Try not to use too big of a pot because too much stock will be needed to cover the shanks while cooking.
One at a time, brown the shanks on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Saute onion, garlic, shallot and carrot until soft and translucent.
Add browned shanks, red wine, beef stock, bay leaves and pepper.
Cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer. (leave lid slightly vented)
Cook for about an hour and a half until the meat has pulled away from the bone (see photo above).
Remove shanks from the sauce, stir in tomato paste, and turn heat up to bring to a slow boil.
When shanks are cool enough to handle remove the meat and shred. Discard any extra fat.
Return shredded lamb to the sauce and reduce the sauce until desired consistency. This can take up to an hour. Sauce should be thick. Taste and add salt if needed.
Serve over pasta or polenta or stuff into ravioli.
Sauce freezes very well.
**Use a dry red wine that you would drink. The bottle pictured (Kaiken) is a wine I like from Argentina. I have purchased all over the US as well as in Australia. At about $10 a bottle it's a good option for this sauce.