Wednesday Dinner: Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu

So, is it ragu or ragout? They are basically the same thing: a thick, long-simmered, flavorful sauce. They have nothing to do with the jarred abomination of processed tomatoes that you purchase at Walmart.

The difference comes from the countries of origin and plating. The Italian ragu is typically tomato-based and served over pasta. The French ragout is a meat or fish stew that is served solo. Apparently, ragus are derived from ragouts and came to be when Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796. Both words are derived from ragoûter, a verb that means “to revive the taste.”

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I’ve used ragout here in the past, and incorrectly I might add, as a means of avoiding a comparison between my sauce and the mass-produced, bottled dreck. I think other food bloggers do the same. It’s one thing to commit a typo (which I do often), but I don’t like knowingly using incorrect language. So, ragu it is.

WHAT WORKED: We don’t eat a lot of lamb. Good lamb is hard to find around here. I wasn’t up for the trip to Nichols, so I ended up at Wegmans which only sells organic and at $7.49 per pound. Pricey, but good lamb is worth the expense. And you need a wide bodied noodle here. Don’t skimp with fettuccine. Do the pappardelle. It’s worth it when that sauce clings to the noodle.

WHAT DIDN’T: I singed the onions a little. I’m terrible.

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EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium. You add stuff, stir, saute or simmer, and repeat. 

BEST FOR: This is a make-ahead and refrigerate for mid-week sauce. It also stands up nicely as an elegant weekend dinner sauce.

SERVE WITH: Bread. Lots of good bread to mop up with.

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Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu
By Jared Paventi

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 to 3 carrots, cleaned, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 celery stalks, cleaned and diced
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Spanish-style paprika
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. herbes de provence
  • 26 to 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup red wine, divided
  • 1 lb. pappardelle pasta


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Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the pan becomes so hot that you can no longer hold your hand just above the surface of the pan, add the oil. When it shimmers, add the onions and cook 1 to 2 minutes, followed by the carrots and celery. Cook the veggies together for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Sprinkle with a two-fingered pinch of kosher salt and a couple of twists from a pepper grinder.

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Add the ground lamb and use a heavy wooden spoon to continuously break up the meat into smaller pieces as it browns. Brown thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of red wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up any brown on bits. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, herbes de provence, and tomato paste. Toss the ingredients together to combine and distribute.

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Gently add the tomatoes to the pan, stirring in to blend. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and let simmer for an hour. Check the pan to make sure that the sauce isn’t sticking. If it does, add a 1/2 cup of red wine and use the wooden spoon to scrape up any stuck on tomato or meat. Cover again and simmer for another hour. 

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Stir the sauce to find any stuck on bits of tomato or meat. Add additional wine to help you loosen up any of these bits of flavor. 

At this point, you can let the sauce cool, the refrigerate for later use.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt liberally, and add the pasta. Cook to 1 minute less than the package’s instructions for al dente. While the pasta cooks, test the sauce and make any flavor adjustments with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, then transfer it to the saute pan and toss with the sauce.

Serve hot with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano.

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