Food & Drink
Lamb ragu recipe

Lamb ragu recipe

Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu is a dish that brings comfort and warmth. You’re like me and crave comfort food during the winter months. This dish is like a warm hug in a bowl!

A slow-braised lamb ragu tossed with twirly pasta, pillowy-tender soft gnocchi, and lots of grated Parmesan cheese & cream would be the definition of huggable… Do you know?

Slow Braised Lamb Ragu – A delicious, comforting taste from Italy

This braised Ragu is a version of the Agnello served in the Northern Italian restaurant I worked at during my gap year.

The lamb shoulder is slowly simmered with tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, and red wine until it becomes succulently tender. Serve the lamb ragu with a pile of pillowy pasta or gnocchi for a restaurant-quality Italian dinner at home.

The best part is? This is the kind of meal you can make in a matter of minutes, and it looks FANCY. Braised lamb ragu is perfect for special occasions like Easter or Christmas, but you can make it on a lazy Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else planned. Trust me; I’ve made it!

Ragu is my specialty, and this Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu was enjoyed by PWWB’s readers for many years. This recipe was originally published in 2017. We’re revisiting the recipe today with improved photography and directions. You’ll love it! Learn more about Braised lamb Ragu or go straight to the recipe.

Let’s start with the basics – what is lamb Ragu?!

Let’s talk Ragu a bit before we get into the meaty details of this recipe. What does Ragu mean? Is it tomato sauce, like marinara? Is it a creamy sauce or a tomato sauce? During my restaurant days, these were the questions I was asked most often by guests… so if you are curious, you are not alone!

Ragu is a term that describes a rich and slow-cooked Italian meat sauce. Ragu is a rich, flavorful sauce that borders on the stew. Ragu is usually served with pasta but can also be done as a side dish. You may have enjoyed the Bolognese without knowing it!

While it is similar to marinara, Ragu has its unique characteristics. It’s usually made with slowly simmered tomato sauce (similar in taste to pasta cream) and always topped off with heavy cream or milk (like creamy pasta). Any ragu has one thing in common: the meat or a meaty ingredient, such as mushrooms or eggplant, is entirely at the center of the dish.

You can make Ragu into anything you like! The first time I tried Ragu was at the Italian restaurant where I worked for many years after college. We had a rotating house-made ragu that changed every week depending on the mood of the chefs. We served pork ragu, wild boar, shredded duck, mushroom, and vegetarian Ragu. Agnello…the slow braised lamb, Ragu that we are making today.

Ingredients in Lamb Ragu

It’s not just because Ragu is rich and delicious but because it uses easy ingredients. Many of these are pantry and fridge staples. This lamb ragu is no different!

The recipe card below contains a complete list of ingredients and measurements.

Lamb Shoulder A tougher lamb cut, perfect for a long braise. The marbling in the meat adds rich flavor to the sauce, and the shoulder remains juicy and tender even after a long cooking time.

Soffritto is the holy trinity in Italian cuisine of Onion, Carrot, and Celery. For larger, chunkier veggies, I prefer to chop my soffritto manually. However, you can grate them in a food processor to reduce the active prep time.

Aromatics_ Of course! This lamb ragu recipe calls for tons of fresh herbs to create a sauce to match the wealthy flavoring of lamb shoulder.

Wine – Ragu is only complete with Wine! The bold red Wine will work well. It helps create a sauce to match the flavor of the lamb shoulder. When I make Ragu, I like to cook it with Italian Wine. Chianti pairs nicely with lamb shoulder.

Tomatoes: The combination of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste for a concentrated flavor. This gives the sauce a velvety texture. Use fire-roasted tomatoes in your homemade pasta sauces and Ragu! The taste is enhanced by fire roasting.

To help the Ragu come together, add a little cream and parmesan.


You can adapt the braised lamb ragu to a few of the most popular appliances, depending on your time and whether you want to be involved in the cooking process.

Is it possible to make a lamb ragu using a slow cooker? Of course! Brown the lamb shoulder and soffrito in the slow cooker or Crockpot to bring out the rich flavors. The recipe notes below include complete instructions for slow cookers.

Can you make lamb ragu with an Instant Pot? Yes! I admit that the Instant Pot and electric pressure cooker are my least favorite method because the sauce has a different richness of flavor due to the faster cooking time… but it works! The recipe notes below include full Instant Pot instructions.

The best part is serving Braised Lamb Ragu over pappardelle or gnocchi

The secret to creating restaurant-quality pasta at home is to finish the pasta and sauce just before serving. The pasta should be cooked together with sauce for two minutes. This helps to bring the two ingredients together into a single dish.

Add the al dente or prepared gnocchi to the pot and the Ragu and toss to combine. Bind everything with heavy cream and parmesan, then simmer it for a few minutes. The starch from the pasta or gnocchi absorbs some of the sauce and makes it a cohesive dish.

If you find your pasta a bit too thick, add some starchy water to it. If it’s too thin, add extra grated Parmesan cheese.

What’s the best pasta to serve with lamb ragu?

In general, thicker sauces go best with broader pasta. You’ll often see pappardelle served with lamb ragu. Pappardelle, however, is not my first choice for Ragu. Bucatini is also fantastic.

You can also serve the pasta with a shorter noodle like rigatoni. The tubular shape will help you get more delicious lamb ragu. Do you want to increase the comfort factor? Serve your lamb ragu over gnocchi, or spoon it on creamy polenta.

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