Last Updated on September 23, 2019 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
Thick, meaty ragu with ground lamb in rich tomato sauce. A cozy, delicious lamb pasta recipe with long-cooked flavour in little time with 3 secret tricks.
Nothing more comforting than a thick and meaty meat sauce amirite? This rich lamb ragu is a hearty, delicious departure from the typical Italian beef and pork players. Serve it over your favourite pasta topped with torn fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. It’s like a warm, squeezy hug in a bowl.
How to make Lamb Ragu
It’s super simple.
- Saute onion, celery and carrot until soft. These disappear completely into the sauce but serve as important flavour builders.
- Add lots of garlic. Don’t be shocked by how much. It mellows and is completely delicious.
- Add ground lamb. See notes below on the secrets.
- Add tomato sauce and broth. (I had chicken broth on hand, but you can swap in beef or veggie broth. Or lamb broth if you’re that fancy.)
Three Secrets for the Most Delicious Lamb Ragu
There are a few important tricks we use to introduce slow-cooked ragu flavour into a quick weeknight pasta. Two require just a wee bit of patience. Instead of relying on a long, low simmer to build flavour, we build it upfront.
First, we season generously and from the start. Salt your veggies as they soften in the initial step. This seasoning from the inside out makes a ridiculous difference in end flavour, particularly in a quick-cooked dish. Salt again when you add your lamb. If your tomato sauce is unsalted, salt again at that point. Season in steps, all the way through the process.
Secondly, we patiently pause the process and allow the lamb to not just cook through, but to render its fat and then actually become brown and get some crispy bits. Don’t keep plunging forward the second the lamb is no longer pink. Take a deep breath and/or a deep sip of wine instead. This browning is caused by a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction, wherein hundreds of new flavour compounds form. Totally worth the wait.
Thirdly, we apply the same patience once the tomato sauce is added, waiting for it to turn a shade darker and smell a bit nutty. This light caramelizing of the tomatoes sugars adds another depth of flavour and eliminates the raw, acidic, sometimes tinny flavour of canned tomatoes.
Other cozy, saucy pasta recipes you’ll love:
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tsp coarse salt divided use
- 6 medium cloves garlic minced
- 1 kg (2.25 lb) ground lamb
- 2 ½ cups tomato puree
- 1 cup chicken broth
- torn fresh mozzarella optional
- torn fresh basil leaves optional
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, celery, carrot and 1 tsp salt. Cook until vegetables are soft and onion is starting to brown, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute before adding lamb and remaining 1 tsp salt.
- Cook until lamb renders its fat and browns, about 15 minutes. Don't rush this step, as it's a key flavour builder. Add tomato puree and cook until it turns a shade darker, another 10 minutes. Again, don't rush - this caramelizes the tomatoes and takes away the raw, acidic flavour. Stir in chicken broth, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook covered for 20 minutes.
- Serve with torn mozzarella and fresh basil, if desired.