Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lamb Ragu With Ricotta Cheese and Mint

This week was looking busy so I needed something easy…and full of comfort. I found this recipe on the Food Network, from Giada De Laurentis a few months ago. Let me tell you, it’s so amazing and so different from any pasta dish I have tried. I think the wine in the sauce really makes it. The trick is, to use a wine you would drink. Don’t buy that garbage that says “cooking wine”. You don’t need it, and it’s a waste. Buy a bottle, use part of it in the dish, and serve the rest at dinner. Besides, what is a plate of pasta, without out a great class of wine?

When I first made this, I wasn’t sure if I would like the mint on top. I love mint, but I never really thought of it being a savory flavor in my entrée. I decided to just try it anyway and I am so glad I did. The mint really gives it an interesting flavor and really compliments the lamb nicely. So don’t be afraid to try it!

I am lucky enough to have a great gourmet market near my house that has fresh ricotta cheese. I love getting it there because its so fresh and has great flavor. The quality of your ingredients really can impact the flavor in your dish. So if you have the option to get fresh, get the fresh.

You can definitely use a jar marinara sauce if you know of one you like. I personally don’t care for jarred and I like making sauce, myself. I usually make extra and save it in Ziploc containers in 3 cup increments and pop them in the freezer for when I need something quick. I have tried a few recipes, but honestly, all of them need work so any suggestions from those who have ah-hem some ‘secret’ family recipe, do share! The one I use the most is derived from Michale Chiarello, who also one my my food network faves. Hey…he cooks in Napa…what’s not to love?

This is so good and perfect for comfort food, even during a busy week.

Lamb Ragu
1 pound rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
4 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or home made ** Homemade recipe is below1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Marinara Sauce
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Medium Sized Onion
½ C. Red Wine
2 28oz. San Marzano Crushed Tomatoes
4 T. Tomato Paste
1 T chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 large fresh basil stem with leaves removed
1 t. sea salt, preferably gray salt
Pinch baking soda or sugar, if needed

For the Lamb Ragu:

Lamb Ragu
These are the tomatoes I used

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

While you cook the pasta, in a large skillet, add olive oil and cook Garlic and shallots until transparent.
Add lamb. Season with salt and pepper and cook through.
Lamb in the skillet
Add wine, and deglaze the pan (scraping up any brown bits) and cook down until ½ of the wine has evaporated.
The wine is cooking off
Add your Marinara and let the flavors come together for about 10 minutes.
Adding the marinara to the meat
Add the pasta, ricotta cheese. Top with fresh mint. Enjoy!

For the Marinara:
You can prepare this a day ahead of time if you want. In fact, the flavors will come together more if you leave it over night. Just refrigerate it.
Heat olive oil in the pan. Add garlic and onion. Sauté until transparent. Add wine. Cook down by ½. Add tomatoes, basil stems, chopped parsley, sea salt, and tomato paste. Cook on medium low for about an hour. Check the flavor, and adjust accordingly.

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