A nice thing about pasta is that it can be super-quick and easy to make—especially in the summer, when fresh ripe tomatoes and fragrant basil are abundant in the garden. But in the greyer months, there’s a whole other realm of pasta options, my favorite being the hearty, slow-simmered sauces which are so rich with flavorful reductions. These types of sauce are typically made with meats and poultry that are “still on the bone” as the long, leisurely braising of the bones helps give the sauces that incredible flavor and body.
As with all these gently braised, robust dishes, the ragout tastes even better the next day. And that’s a nice thing about slow-braised pasta sauces; you can make them up to three days before serving them or even freeze them for later enjoyment!
I have included a recipe for slow-cooked lamb sauce—because we’re all busy and sometimes just need to load up that slow-cooker and head out the door. But, hey! You get to come home to a house that smells soooo good and a spectacular dinner that was cooking away while you were off working.
Tender chunks of lamb shoulder cook with a touch of orange peel, balsamic vinegar, onion and garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, red wine, and fresh sage; the ingredients meld into a robust meat sauce—perfect paired up with chunky, rigatoni pasta. And to finish the dish, I like to crumble soft goat cheese over it. Add a fresh arugula salad, crusty bread, and a big glass of red wine. What more could you ask to come home to?
Hearty Slow-Cooked Lamb & Mushroom Sauce with Rigatoni
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more as needed
2 pounds lamb shoulder arm chops, fat trimmed off and each chop cut into 3 pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/8 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 teaspoons minced orange zest
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup canned low-sodium beef broth
3 fresh sage leaves
3/4 – 1 pound dry rigatoni pasta
2 ounces soft chevre (goat cheese)
fresh sage leaves for garnish
To make the sauce: In a large nonstick pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Season lamb on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. When the pan is very hot, add half of the lamb and brown for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side or until well browned. Continue with remaining lamb. As lamb is browned, transfer it to a slow-cooker.
In the same nonstick pan, saute the onion and mushrooms, stirring often, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chili flakes, orange zest, and tomato paste. Stir in well and cook this mixture for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar and wine. Cook the mixture, reducing it for about 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and sage leaves. Bring to a boil and then immediately pour the mixture over the lamb in the slow-cooker. Be sure to scrape in all the goodies. Cover the cooker and cook for about 6 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
To serve: Turn off the cooker. Remove bones from the lamb and break up meat into the sauce. Cover the sauce while cooking the pasta.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta per package directions until just al dente. Drain (but do not rinse!) and place the well-drained pasta back into the cooking pot. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Toss well.
Divide pasta among serving bowls and ladle sauce over pasta. This sauce is very brothy, so be sure to divide broth among bowls also. Crumble goat cheese over pasta and garnish with fresh sage leaves. Serve immediately.
©2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®