(6 Hour) Lamb and Beef Short Rib Ragu
So, I’ll start off by saying this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. Tender, fall-off-the-bone meat is one of my favorite things in the world and after making this dish I realized it only gets better when it’s been braised in a rich, decadent tomato sauce. I’ve made my fair share of ragu sauces before with mixed results; really, I had made decent versions, but none that I could declare exceptional (and certainly not a ragu I would describe as being one of the best things [period] I’ve ever made).
I initially found the recipe on The Amateur Gourmet (where it was adapted from Canal House Vol. 2.) and I have to say it sounded a bit odd. Besides salt and pepper, the dish is mainly seasoned with nutmeg and anchovies. While many may think “weird” or “eeeew,” I could only think of how much I wanted to make it. See, when I’m at a restaurant I try and order the weirdest, most unique thing on the menu. I’m totally that guy that will order a Yak burger or tofu glazed in squid ink. So when a spice that can go either sweet or savory and a fish I’ve only used in salad dressing showed up in a tomato sauce recipe I just had to try it.
The thing I loved most about this is how versatile it was. I found it most delicious served with pasta, but I loved it over soft polenta and a few nights later when I was feeling “healthy” I found it to be delicious over brown rice. It was even perfection spooned over a crusty piece of bread. Next time I make it (which I hope is soon) I definitely plan on using it as a sauce in lasagna and I think it would be divine served over gnocchi. It makes a pretty hefty portion and the leftovers reheated really well (I actually think they tasted better a day after it had been made as the flavors melded more).
Before I give you the recipe, here are a few tips:
- You should be able to find lamb neck and beef short ribs at most butchers
- Do not rush the browning process on the meat! It will have more flavor the browner it gets.
- Do NOT taste the sauce the first hour or two. I wanted to make sure it was seasoned properly but nearly gagged on the heavy anchovy taste. However, the anchovy flavor really mellowed out a few hours into the cooking process and became much more balanced. In the end, you really couldn’t tell there were anchovies—simply added a je ne sais quoi quality.
- With so few ingredients, make sure you use good ones! Freshly grated nutmeg has much more flavor so go with that instead of the pre-ground stuff in the spice bottle. Also, now is not the time for a cheap wine! Lastly, I find that San Marzano tomatoes have the best flavor (definitely worth the extra buck or two per can)
Lamb and Short Rib Ragu
- 1.5 pounds lamb necks (or shoulder chops) (should be roughly one lamb neck)
- 1.5 pound beef short ribs
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 2 ribs celery, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
- Approximately 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 cups white wine
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- One 15-ounce can plain tomato sauce (weird, I know, I used plain Hunts)
- Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
In a large, heavy, deep skillet or pan (I used a 5.5 quart Dutch oven that was almost filled to the brim), heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Let heat until nearly smoking. Meanwhile, pat meat dry with paper towels (dry meat sears better) and season with salt and pepper.
Sear and brown meat in batches (I found it took two batches) until browned on all sides. Do not rush this process as browned meat has more flavor. It probably took about 5 minutes per side for a very browned crust. Remove meat from pan and continue additional batches. Meanwhile, chop and prepare remaining ingredients.
Once all meat has browned and been removed, add in onion, celery, and carrot (I found there was enough grease in the pot from the meat, but add more olive oil if necessary). Cook vegetables until nicely browned (approximately 8 minutes), then add garlic and anchovies and cook for a minute or so longer (you don’t want to brown the garlic too much as it takes on a bitter taste).
Pour wine into the pan and scrape up any crusty bits stuck to the pan (so much flavor!) and cook for a minute or so, until wine has just slightly reduced.
Return meat to the pan and pour in the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to a low boil and reduce to a simmer (low heat) and cook (uncovered) for approximately 3.5-4 hours, stirring occasionally. I added a few splashes of water here and there to ensure the sauce didn’t get too thick, but don’t fret too much, you’ll only need to add half a cup or so the entire cooking process.
Once meat is fork tender, remove from pot, let cool slightly, and shred, being sure to discard bones, large pieces of fat, and any gristle. Return shredded meat to pot and continue cooking for 1.5-2 more hours.
Serve over pasta, polenta, or rice; sprinkle with parsley and/or parmesan cheese, if desired (it was so good, even without cheese, which you’ll never hear me say [I typically think cheese makes everything better]).
Prepare to enjoy an epic meal!