(photo found here, because I’m too lazy to take a picture of my own…)
I saw Giada make this recipe on TV the other day, and I decided that I wanted to try it. Fortuitously, the next day, I saw an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they talked about the problem with recipes such as this one, and they talked about how to correct it. So I put the two together, and made a killer Super Bowl Sunday pasta for our dinner. Really, really good. (Go Saints!) So, here’s Giada’s recipe, which varies slightly but (I think) critically from her cookbook:
Lamb Ragu with Mint
* 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
* 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
* 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
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.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet warm the olive oil over high heat. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the ground lamb, salt, and pepper. Cook until the lamb has browned and the juices have evaporated. Add the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add the marinara sauce and simmer over low heat until the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Add the int and ricotta and stir until mixed. Add the pasta and stir to coat. Serve immediately.
Apparently, this recipe is slightly different than in her cookbook (I’m not sure which one, since I didn’t get it from a cookbook, and she has several. The cookbook recipe calls for 2 cups of marinara sauce, while on TV, she used 4 cups of sauce. We have a 1 cup measure, and a 2 cup measure, and nothing larger, so when I made it, Maya filled the 2 cup measure twice. When the ragu only contained 2 cups of sauce, it was just NOT enough. Not enough for pasta, at least. So I agree with the change to 4 cups. I decided that since it was a Sunday afternoon and I had time, I would use her recipe for home made marinara sauce, which was delicious.
* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 small onions, finely chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
* 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
* 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
* 2 dried bay leaves
In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)
I couldn’t find a 32-oz can of crushed tomatoes, but I could find 2 28-oz cans + 1 15-oz can, which is about 8 oz more than the recipe calls for. You can’t really do that in baking, but in a pasta sauce, who cares. This recipe made about twice as much sauce as I needed, but Ted’s making Chicken Parmesan tonight, so he can use some of the extra there. You could halve the recipe, or you could freeze the extra for another use. Nothing wrong with extra marinara laying around, right?
I’ll bet you’re wondering what the secret was that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, right? Well, they were making a Bolognese sauce, and were talking about how browning the meat and then adding the sauce often leads to a rubbery consistency in the meat. I’ve had that happen, and it’s disappointing when you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your sauce. Heck, it’s disappointing even if you’re using a jar of good sauce. Who wants rubbery meat? Not me. The trick is to take a piece of good bread (they said white, but all we had was whole wheat), and put it into the food processor with about 2 tblsp. of milk, process it, and then add the meat. Here’s the directions from their recipe, which do not match the recipe above:
Pulse milk and bread in food processor until it forms a paste, about 8 pulses. Add salt and pepper. Add beef and pulse until just combined, about 6 pulses.
You then start by sauteing your shallots and garlic a bit, and adding the lamb/bread/milk mixture, and cooking but not browning them. Once the meat is no longer pink, you then add the red wine, and follow the original recipe from there.
The result? A WINNER. Really, really yummy. The meat was soft and moist, which was perfect for a ragu. The ricotta cheese added a delicious creaminess to the dish. I was worried about the mint, so I served it on the side, and we tried it with and without. With was definitely better. The mint gave the dish a nice bright flavor that counterbalanced the depth of the lamb and wine. Really, really good. It got 6 thumbs up (two each from me, Ted, and Maya). I recommend it highly. Thanks Giada, and thanks ATK. Really good.
Btw, the ATK recipe calls for some mushrooms in the meat mixture, which adds extra meaty flavor to the sauce. I was going to try this, but forgot to buy mushrooms. I’ll bet it would be delicious.