A Ragu to Warm Your January

The temperatures are bitter, and the post-holiday slump is real. If you are seeking an antidote to January, look no further than this hearty pasta dish. Lift your spirits with a savory sauce, redolent with rich lamb, red wine and rosemary. Serve over your favorite pasta, with a side of roasted radicchio, and a glass of that good red wine and your winter evening will be filled with warmth.  


Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle

Ground lamb and pancetta makes for a rich and flavorful sauce. You can substitute it with a combination of ground beef and pork. The milk may seem a strange addition, but it somehow just makes it much better. 

The Ragu

2 lbs. ground Lamb
¾ cup cubed pancetta
1 large yellow onion finely diced
1 large carrot finely diced
2 sticks celery finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tabs extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
One 15 oz can peeled plum tomatoes in natural juice, coarsely pureed
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken or beef broth
1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
Large sprig rosemary
Fine sea salt and fresh black pepper

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and lightly brown before adding the onions. Cook together over low heat until onions are slightly translucent. Add the bay leaf, celery, and carrot and ½ tsp. of salt and continue cooking for a further five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste and cook over low heat while stirring. 

Heat a heavy skillet and add one Tbsp. olive oil. Add the ground lamb and lightly brown on both sides, breaking it up with a spatula as it browns. Add the lamb to the vegetable mixture and cook together for a couple of minutes before adding the plum tomatoes and broth. 

Simmer the mixture for about five minutes before adding the milk. Continue to cook, stirring throughout, for about 30 minutes over low heat, before adding the whole rosemary sprig. 

Cook for a further 15 minutes before adding salt and fresh black pepper to taste. You should have a nice thick sauce. If it looks too dry, add a little more broth. If it is too thick, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid a little more. Remove rosemary and bay leaf.

To Assemble

Pappardelle comes packaged in bundles to prevent the wide brittle noodles from being damaged. When preparing, you can help prevent breakage by cooking it until al dente and handling gently. It will not affect the flavor, but if you a want a restaurant quality presentation, proceed with care! The sauce also pairs well with fettucine or bucatini.

Lamb ragu (above)
14 oz. pappardelle (1 used 2 bundles per person)
Grated fresh parmesan
Salt and fresh black pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling

Bring a very large pot of water to a brisk boil. Salt lightly and lower in the pasta. Cook at a low boil for 7 to 8 minutes until cooked, but still slightly firm. While the pasta cooks, add the ragu to a large, heavy skillet and warm gently. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water, and gently add to the pan of warmed ragu. 

Using a large spoon or spaghetti scoop, gently fold to coat evenly with the sauce over a very low heat. When everything is well combined, add a generous amount of fresh black pepper and a little more salt to taste. Serve in preheated bowls with plenty of fresh parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil.


Roasted Radicchio with Garlic Breadcrumbs

The bitter leaves of radicchio are nicely mellowed when roasted with a generous amount of olive oil and salt. I used the Treviso radicchio which is a bit harder to source than the compact, round Chioggia variety found in every supermarket. The Treviso has longer narrower loosely packed leaves and is my first choice, though the dish will work well with Chioggia. Chioggia will need to be cut into smaller wedges and you can loosen the leaves a little before roasting. 

The Breadcrumbs

I make a batch of these and keep them in an airtight container for a week or so. They beat the pre-seasoned variety and are good for coating and sprinkling. If I have some leftover slightly stale sourdough, I will use that. I have also discovered they taste pretty good made with panko. I use the Sushi Chef brand, which has zero additives. You can substitute dried oregano or rosemary for the fresh parsley and leave out the parmesan if you wish.

1 cup panko
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper

Gently heat the oil in a heavy skillet and add the minced garlic. Stir over low heat until it is fragrant but not browned. Add the panko crumbs and keep stirring and moving around the pan until they absorb the olive and start to turn golden. Add the parsley, parmesan and a little salt and black pepper. Remove to a large plate and spread out to cool. Once they are completely cold, place in an airtight container until ready to use.

Roasting the Radicchio

3 heads of Treviso or 2 heads of Chioggia radicchio
¼ cup olive oil
fine sea salt

Halve the Treviso heads lengthwise or cut the Chioggia into four wedges. Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle a little salt on each cut side and place cut side down on a parchment lined sheet pan. Drizzle over the rest of the olive oil and add more salt. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until tender and slightly browned at the edges. Remove it from the oven and leave to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with garlic breadcrumbs and an extra drizzle of oil.

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