Slow-cooked lamb ragu in a rich, tomato sauce served with soft, fluffy cauliflower gnocchi is the ultimate show stopper meal. The perfect meal for lazy weekend cooking.
Table of Contents
- Lamb. I used lamb shoulder but a leg of lamb will also work.
- Fresh garlic cloves.
- Fresh herbs: I used fresh rosemary and thyme but sage, parsley and oregano are all delicious with lamb. Although mint is traditionally a great partner to lamb, I wouldn’t recommend using it here. You can however serve the finished dish with a few fresh basil leaves as garnish.
- Red wine. If you’d prefer to keep this recipe alcohol-free, substitute the wine with beef stock and two tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar.
- Beef/lamb stock.
- Chopped tomatoes. Use San Marzano tomatoes, if possible.
- Tomato paste.
- Salt and black pepper.
- Potatoes. Use any potato variety suitable for baking. Waxy potatoes will make the gnocchi gluey.
- Egg yolk.
How to make lamb ragu
- Cook the lamb: Place the lamb shoulder and aromatics (onion, garlic, herbs) in a large roasting tray and add the red wine and stock. Roast until the lamb is tender and can easily be shredded (approximately 3-4 hours).
- Make the ragu: In a large pot/Dutch oven set over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic until fragrant then stir in the tomatoes, a few tablespoons of tomato paste, herbs, red wine and the shredded lamb and cook for 25-30 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly. Season to taste and serve with gnocchi or pasta of your choice (pappardelle pasta is fantastic with ragu) and a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese.
Can I make this ragu in an Instant Pot/Pressure cooker?
Yes absolutely. Start the lamb in the Instant Pot and cook with the aromatics for 1 hour, 15 minutes on high pressure. Remove the lamb and shred then continue with the ragu as directed above. If you’d like to use a slow cooker, the lamb will take approximately 7-8 hours.
Can I make this ahead?
Yes, the ragu and gnocchi can be made in advance. Allow the cooked ragu to cool to room temperature then transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The lamb ragù can also be frozen in freezer bags for up to 3 months. Form the gnocchi then freeze in a single layer on a baking tray before transferring to freezer bags. Cook the gnocchi from frozen in a large pot of salted water until they float to the surface and are al dente.
Although the ragu is delicious with cauliflower gnocchi, it will be equally good with creamy mashed potatoes, polenta, risotto or pasta.
Ragu is a meat sauce consisting of slow-braised meat cooked with aromatics like onion, garlic and herbs in a braising liquid, often broth or wine. Bolognese is a meat sauce consisting of ground beef, pork or veal also braised slowly with aromatics with the addition of milk and often white wine instead of red.
Most pasta shapes work with ragu. Pappardelle is a classic favorite but penne, ziti, or rigatoni are also delicious.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then drop in the gnocchi. Once the gnocchi floats to the top, they are ready and can be scooped out with a slotted spoon and combined with sauce.
If you use a gluten-free flour, gnocchi can be gluten free but most gnocchi recipes and store-bought gnocchi are not gluten free.
Slow braised recipes
- Beef ragu with Parmesan gnocchi
- Classic Spaghetti Bolognese
- Slow braised beef short ribs with cheesy mash
Lamb ragu with cauliflower gnocchi
for the ragu
- 1 kg (2lbs) lamb shoulder
- 1 onion quartered
- 6 garlic cloves skin on
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 cup beef/lamb stock
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- 1 celery stick finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 400 g (14oz) chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- salt & pepper to taste
for the gnocchi
- 1 kg (2lb) baking/fluffy potatoes
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 egg yolks
- 1½-2 cups cake/all purpose flour
- salt to taste
- 1 cup semolina for dusting
- To make the lamb ragu, pre-heat the oven to 160°c/320°F.
- Place the lamb shoulder, along with the quartered onion, garlic cloves, rosemary, half of the red wine and stock in an oven-proof dish then season to taste and cover with foil/a lid.
- Place in the oven and allow to roast slowly for 3-4 hours until the lamb is tender and falling off the bone.
- In the meantime, place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a skewer is easily inserted.
- Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Allow to roast alongside the potatoes until golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove the potatoes and cauliflower from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Puree the cauliflower and set aside.
- Halve the potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl, using a potato masher/fork, mash until there are no lumps. Add the cauliflower puree and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Add the egg yolks and mix well.
- Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix in gently, you don’t want to over-work the dough. I only needed 1.5 cups of flour for my gnocchi but some mixtures might need a bit more. It’s best to make sure your potatoes are quite dry before adding the flour though as the more flour you add, the tougher your gnocchi will be. The dough should be soft and a little tacky, but not overly sticky.
- Break tennis ball sized pieces off of the dough and roll into long strips on a floured surface. cut the strip into 1cm gnocchis and place on a tray sprinkled with semolina (the semolina won't absorb into the gnocchi) until you are ready to cook them. If you like, you can also use a fork to make indents in the gnocchi which create little spaces to suck up more of the ragu sauce.
- When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven and shred.
- In a saucepan, saute the red onion, carrots, celery and sliced garlic until soft and translucent then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, shredded lamb and all the lamb's cooking juices.
- Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lamb is very tender.
- To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and drop the gnocchi in carefully. When they float to the surface they are ready. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place straight into the ragu.
- Serve immediately.