It promised to be a long lazy winter Sunday afternoon, just perfect for a braised lamb dish. Earlier that weekend, after scrolling through numerous cookbooks, we settled on this Lamb and Pepper Ragu from Lidia Bastianich’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine cookbook.
This dish starts with browning pieces of lamb shoulder (which a month prior we had cubed and frozen for future use), next creating a reduction of wine and meat juices as a base for a lovely slow-cooked tomato sauce. Halfway through, quartered potatoes and a variety of sweet bell peppers are added providing pops of lively color.
Directions called for the peppers to be quartered which were too large IMHO, so I cut each quarter in half producing eight chunks from each pepper.
After all of the allotted cooking time however, we felt that the sauce was too thin. To thicken we uncovered and kept up a vigorous simmer for almost another 30 minutes. Part way trough, Hubby broke apart the large potato chunks to release their starch and help thicken the sauce. Bingo, there was now enough body to ladle and cling to the wide egg noodles as the base.
Lamb and Pepper Ragu
- 2 lb boneless lamb shoulder or lamb stew meat, cut into 1″ pieces
- 2 oz pancetta, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 c dry white wine
- 1 28-oz. can Italian tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes, crushed by hand)
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. paprika, sweet
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 3 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange preferred), seeded and quartered
- 2 1/2 cups water
- First, make the pestata. Place the pancetta and garlic cloves into the food processor and grind until smooth.
- Heat a large Dutch oven or cast-iron pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil shimmers, add the pestata and cook until the fat is rendered, 3-4 minutes.
- Season the lamb with 1 tsp of salt. Add to the hot pan with pestata. Cook over medium heat until the lamb releases its juices, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.
- Increase the heat to brown the meat all over, about 4 more minutes.
- Season with remaining salt and red pepper flakes. Add the wine, and cook until it is almost reduced away, approximately 4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, their juices, and slosh out the can with 1 1/2 cups water, adding that too.
- Sprinkle in the oregano and paprika. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook 30 minutes.
- Add potatoes, peppers, and 1 cup water (although we don’t think this extra cup of water is necessary based on how thin the sauce ended up before we reduced it). Set lid ajar, and cook 45-60 minutes more, until lamb and vegetables are fork-tender.
- If the sauce is too watery, uncover, turn the heat to high and reduce to thicken and concentrate the flavors, and stir until desired thickness (which was an additional 30 minutes for us).
- Serve over pasta, risotto, rice, or egg noodles.
Adapted from a recipe by Lidia Bastianich