Make It A Pasta Night

Luscious red wine-simmered lamb and sweet peas combine for this easy rigatoni dish.
Luscious red wine-simmered lamb and sweet peas combine for this easy rigatoni dish.

If I had my druthers, I would indeed make every night “Pasta Night”

It’s no secret that I love my carbs, so naturally this cookbook (Rizzoli, 2022), of which I received a review copy, definitely spoke to me.

This collection of more than 60 recipes is by Deborah Kaloper, a Californian turned Aussie, who’s a food writer, chef, pastry chef, and food stylist.

The recipes range from quick sauces to more-time consuming dishes if you want to make your very own pasta to go with. Enjoy everything from “Grilled Lobster Tails with Garlicky Salsa Verde Butter” and “Pappardelle with Beef Cheek Ragu” to “Vegan Mac ‘N’ Cheese” and “Spinach and Three-Cheese Manicotti.”

Just pick up a package of dried rigatoni, turn on the oven, and let it do most of the work for “Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni” that will have your kitchen smelling heavenly.

Boneless chunks of lamb shoulder, carrot, onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, sage, rosemary, and a lot of red wine mingle low and slow for 2 1/2 hours in the oven, rendering the meat incredibly tender while also making its own fabulous sauce.

A perfect Italian wine to both use in the dish and to enjoy a glass of with the pasta.
A perfect Italian wine to both use in the dish and to enjoy a glass of with the pasta.

I opened a bottle of Cantine Ermes 2019 Quattro Quarti Appassimento, of which I received a sample, to add to the dish, as well as to sip a glass alongside the finished pasta. The wine is made with Nero d’Avola grapes — partially dried to add concentrated flavor — from four different Sicilian vineyards (hence the name). This deep ruby wine is fragrant with dark cherries, and has a jammy black cherry taste with hints of thyme, sage, and cocoa, making it ideal with a braised lamb dish.

Once the lamb is tender, add in frozen peas, and give it a quick stir, letting the residual heat warm them. Toss just-cooked rigatoni into the sauce, and serve.

This is a meaty, hearty dish with that prized depth of flavor that comes from long cooking. The peas add a wonderful pop of freshness and natural sweetness, not to mention lovely color to the overall dish.

But don’t just take my word for it. When my husband took his first taste, he immediately exclaimed, “This is good. Really good!”

Believe it.

Make it a "Pasta Night'' tonight.
Make it a “Pasta Night” tonight.

Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni

(Serves 4 to 6)

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 carrot, diced

2 onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 cups red wine

2 pounds tinned whole tomatoes

1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked

2 sage sprigs, leaves picked

1 cup frozen peas

1 pound, 2 ounces dried rigatoni

Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Season the lamb well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat and, working in batches, sear the lamb on all sides for 6 to 7 minutes, until evenly browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat slightly, add the carrot and onion and saute for 8 to 9 minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until just fragrant, then add the wine and cook, stirring until reduced by half.

Tip the tomatoes into a bowl and lightly crush them with your hands, then add them to the pan along with the herbs. Return the lamb to the dish along with any juices and stir through.

Cover the dish, transfer to the oven and cook for about 2 1/2 hours, until the ragu has reduced to a thick, rich sauce and the lamb is fork-tender. Stir through the peas and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is cooking, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Shred any larger chunks of lamb into bite-sized pieces. Add the rigatoni to the ragu and stir through to completely coast the pasta.

Divide the ragu among warm pasta bowls and serve with plenty of grated Parmesan.

From “Pasta Night” by Deborah Kaloper

More Pasta Recipes to Savor: Linguine with Red Snapper and Agliata

And: Big Shells with Spicy Lamb Sausage and Pistachios

And: Creamy Miso Pasta with Shrimp

And: Extra-Anchovy Pasta with Kale

And: Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Arugula

And: Wasabi Soy Sauce Pasta

And: Sage and Walnut Tagliatelle

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