Hearty Lamb Ragù with Rigatoni


It doesn't get more delicious than this lamb ragù with pasta: full of vegetables, studded with pancetta, and enriched with red wine. Be sure to serve with plenty of pecorino cheese.

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 15 mins
4 to 6 servings

As we all know, good things come to those who wait — so don't try to rush this lamb ragù recipe. A long, slow cook is requisite to building the deep, complex flavor the sauce is known for. This starts with the chopped carrots, onion, and red bell pepper. It should take a full 12 minutes to sauté these veggies until they're tender and beginning to brown, so adjust the heat if that appears to be happening more rapidly. Once the tomatoes and broth are added, allow the sauce to leisurely simmer for an hour and a half; this is when the flavors meld and become concentrated.

You'll want to use high-quality canned tomatoes and wine for this recipe, as both ingredients really shine through here. San Marzano tomatoes are the ideal choice; they're plum tomatoes that tend to be more intensely flavored, sweeter, and less acidic than other varieties. As for the wine, choose a dry red that you like to drink. Not only will you want to impart that taste into the sauce, but you'll have 90 minutes to enjoy a glass while the sauce simmers!


  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

  • 4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1 pound boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 3/4 cup dry red wine

  • 1 (28-ounce) can peeled Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved

  • 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound rigatoni

  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving


  1. In a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the carrots, onion, and red bell pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a plate.

  2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the casserole. Add the pancetta and stir once or twice over moderately high heat until sizzling. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the meat is browned, 10 minutes. Return the vegetables to the casserole. Add the red wine and simmer until evaporated, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the chicken stock, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover partially, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is very tender, 1 1/2 hours. Discard the bay leaf.

  3. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rigatoni until al dente. Drain the rigatoni and toss with half of the lamb ragù. Serve the pasta in large bowls, passing the remaining lamb ragù and the pecorino cheese at the table.

Hearty Lamb Ragù with Rigatoni
© Quentin Bacon

Make ahead

The lamb ragù can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Suggested pairing

A soft, generous Montepulciano d'Abruzzo will combine well with the pungent lamb and sweet carrots.

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