This is hands-down one of the most comforting dishes I’ve ever eaten. It is made with boneless lamb that’s been cubed into 1 x 1 cm blocks – don’t stress about the labour, it goes quickly and it’s actually quite therapeutic (read: pour yourself a glass of wine while you do it). You can use chops, leg or even stewing meat, just remove the bones and chop-chop-chop. The result is a chunkier ragu than those made with ground meat, very tender with an incredible mouth-feel and packed with simple, robust flavours. Just the way the Italians intended.
I love serving this ragu with gnocchi, but it also works well with pasta – homemade is best. Fresh basil and grated parmigiano is compulsory. Bellissima!
Check out this handy how-to video:
Ingredients: (serves 6)
45 ml olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
1-2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, woody stems removed & finely chopped
1 kg boneless lamb/mutton, cubed into 1 x 1 cm pieces
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped, with juice
salt & pepper
5 ml sugar
about 750g-1 kg fresh gnocchi, cooked, to serve (or 500 g dried pasta, cooked)
a handful fresh basil leaves, to serve
grated parmesan cheese, to serve
- In a heavy based large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onion, celery, carrot and rosemary until soft and fragrant.
- Add the cubed meat and turn up the heat. Fry until it starts to catch (get brown and sticky) on the bottom stirring often – this is important, so be patient. It takes about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Add the chopped tomatoes with juice, season with salt & pepper, add the sugar and stir. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down low, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until very soft. Stir every now and then.
- Serve with cooked gnocchi or pasta, with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.
Note: Store-bought gnocchi don’t pan-fry well and should rather be boiled briefly in salted water until they pop to the surface. Freshly made gnocchi can be directly pan-fried in butter until golden, it only take a few minutes over medium heat and it is most definitely my preference.
This is the second recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipe for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & preserved lemon.