Last Saturday morning, I awoke to a forecast of 25 degrees C (77 degrees f). I excitedly hopped out of bed, put on a light long-sleeved jumper (I know that all of you northern hemisphere people will laugh at that, but I’m Australian after all) and headed to Perth City Farm for a long-awaited breakfast catch up with some university friends.
After toast and conversation, we had a wander around the sprawling market. I purchased a bunch of kale, organic shallots and tiny heads of garlic in a crinkled brown paper bag.
After squirreling them home, I decided to make slow-cooked lamb ragu; mostly due to the fact that it was finally cool enough to use the oven without sweating. As Aaron was out for the day (helping some friends renovate their house), I spent six hours kneading, rolling, typing, slow-cooking and photographing to a mixed soundtrack created by the beautiful Ali from Milk & Cereal (thanks Ali!).
It was blissful. Creative culinary solitude. Wonderful in a way that only foodies will understand.
Later that evening, Aaron arrived home in a tumble of dust and fatigue. Whilst he showered, I boiled the fresh pasta and grated lemon zest into a pile of gremolata.
We sat on the couch, balancing plates of rich lamb whilst watching a re-run of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Two hours later, with full bellies, we fell asleep.
This recipe makes a huge pot of delicious ragu. I estimate that with the pasta accompaniment, it’d serve six to eight reasonably hungry people (even more with a side of garlic bread).
Due to a recent obsession with my Marcato pasta machine, I made my own pasta; however for those less motivated (or more time-pressured) good-quality packet pasta is perfectly acceptable.
Slow-cooked Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle and Gremolata
- 4-6 small lamb shanks (roughly 2 – 2.3kg bone-in weight = approx 1kg meat yield)
- 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
- 8 small French shallots, peeled
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 4 slices rindless bacon or pancetta, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced into 1cm pieces
- 2 sticks celery, diced into 1cm pieces
- 1 cup fresh rosemary, thyme and sage leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup (125ml) good-quality red wine
- 2 cups (500ml) chicken or beef stock
- 700ml bottle tomato sugo (substitute passata)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2-3 anchovy fillets in oil, minced
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved (optional)
- 1/4 cup double-podded broad beans (optional)
- 700g fresh pappardelle pasta (or 500g dried)
- shaved Parmesan, to serve
- 1/2 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves, washed
- finely grated zest from 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Coat lamb shanks lightly in seasoned flour (pat lightly with your hands to remove excess).
Heat some oil in a large, heavy-based oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add the shanks in batches, making sure not to overload the pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate, then set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the onions, garlic, pancetta/bacon, carrot, celery and herbs. Cook until softened and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, sugo, wine and anchovies; cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and stir to combine.
Return the lamb to the pan and bring the mixture to the boil. Cover, switch off the heat and carefully transfer the pan into your preheated oven. Cook, turning the shanks over half-way through cooking, for 3-4 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.
Place the pan back onto the stove top over medium heat. Remove the lamb shanks and shred or break up the meat as desired. Discard the bones and add the meat back into the sauce with the kalamata olives, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 30 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by one third. Stir through the broad beans, remove from heat and cover with lid/foil to keep warm.
Cook your pasta until al dente (I used fresh Pappardelle that I made whilst the lamb was cooking in the oven). Drain well, then mix with 1/3 of the lamb ragu sauce. Divide between plates and top with another spoonful of sauce, shaved Parmesan cheese and a generous sprinkling of gremolata (directions below).
*To make the gremolata: coarsely chop the parsley and add it to a bowl with the lemon zest and finely chopped garlic. Grind over some black pepper and mix well.