Monday, November 16, 2009

Mmmmmm, Lamb-tastic!

Tasty Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle for a Chilly November Night
My friend Jordan likes to say, "The cuter the animal, the tastier the meat." While perhaps a rather barbaric sentiment in certain ways, I suppose it's true in the case of lamb. As a commonplace protein in Eastern European and Italian cuisine, perhaps it's just in my blood to enjoy the rich and distinct flavor of good lamb. Or maybe it's just a damn tasty meat to put in my mouth.

This quick and tasty pasta dish with a savory, brothy sauce is a nice break from the old chicken-or-beef-routine. The creamy tanginess of the crumbled feta cheese plays nicely with the lamb and fresh herbs. Serve with a good quality crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. (I was lucky enough to be given a loaf of amazing sourdough bread straight from San Francisco today and it was perfection with this dinner.)


- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved
- 3 large shallots, peeled and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 c. beef broth
- 1 c. red wine

- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, minced
- 1 large handful Italian parsley, minced
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- crumbled feta cheese
- 10 oz. fresh pappardelle noodles (wide noodles)

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, add ground lamb. Cook, season with salt and pepper, and break up with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown (about 4-5 minutes). Add shallots and garlic, cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes and sugar, mix with ground lamb and cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add vinegar, wine, and broth to mixture, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add minced herbs, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes for broth to thicken. Stir occasionally while cooking and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

As sauce simmers, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil to cook noodles. When water is at a rolling boil, cook. Fresh noodles take very little time to cook (1-2 minutes, really) so pay attention to the timing. Cook noodles and drain.

After sauce has simmered, remove from heat and toss with fresh noodles. Divide pasta with lamb ragu among four bowls. Pour extra broth over pasta. Top each bowl with crumbled feta cheese. Serve with a nice glass of wine and bread to sop up extra sauce.

This is a great dish for a quick weeknight meal, but the mystique of the lamb makes it "fancy" enough for guests- they'll never know how easy it actually was to throw together in about 30 minutes.

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