braised lamb shank ragu over pappardelle

There's nothing more satisfying than a hearty bowl of delicious pasta, but this dish is so much more than your basic pasta and sauce. It features slow-cooked lamb that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. It is really almost like a hearty meat stew over noodles - perfect for a fall or winter evening. The lamb shank is the part of the lamb that is below the knee. Every lamb has four shanks, two foreshanks and two hindshanks. The shank must braise for two to three hours for all the muscle and collagen to break down and become tender. This dish is elegant, hearty and satisfying, and goes perfectly with a full-bodied red wine such as a Syrah or Zinfandel. 

  • Lamb shanks (2 shanks, approximately 2 pounds total)

  • Olive oil (2 teaspoons)

  • White sugar (2 teaspoons)

  • Sea salt (1 teaspoon total)

  • Red pepper flakes (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Ground mustard (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Pancetta (1/2 cup, diced into small cubes)

  • Carrots (2 large carrots, diced)

  • Celery (2 stalks, diced)

  • White onion (1 small, diced)

  • Fresh garlic (2 teaspoons, minced)

  • Tomato paste (2 teaspoons)

  • Brown sugar (2 teaspoons)

  • Fresh thyme (1 teaspoon, minced, plus additional for garnish)

  • Fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon, minced)

  • Black olives (1/4 cup, roughly chopped with pits removed)

  • Dry red wine (1/2 cup)

  • Whole canned tomatoes (1 can, 28 ounces)

  • Beef broth (1 cup)

  • Balsamic vinegar (2 teaspoons)

  • Worcestershire sauce (1 teaspoon)

  • Dried shiitake mushrooms (1/2 cup, rehydrated in 1/2 cup warm water)

  • Pappardelle pasta (1 package, dried)

  1. Unwrap the lamb shanks and place in a large Ziploc bag.

  2. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, pepper flakes and ground mustard to the bag. Rub the spice marinade into the shanks. 

  3. Place the Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to allow the shanks to brine in the spice mixture. 

  4. When ready to prepare the sauce, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

  5. Remove the lamb shanks from the Ziploc bag and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside near the stove.

  6. In a large Dutch oven, brown the pancetta pieces over medium heat until lightly crispy and cooked through; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to add back to the sauce later.

  7. Add the shanks to the Dutch oven and brown for 6 to 8 minutes over medium heat, turning regularly during cooking to ensure even browning. When the lamb shanks are golden brown, remove with tongs and set aside with the pancetta.

  8. Add the carrots, celery, white onion, fresh garlic, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the Dutch oven. Cook the vegetables in the residual oil over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until the vegetables are fragrant and translucent. 

  9. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, fresh thyme and rosemary, and chopped black olives to the vegetables. Stir with a wooden spoon until the tomato paste is evenly incorporated. Simmer over low heat for 2 minutes to allow the tomato paste to concentrate and flavor to infuse.

  10. Deglaze the pan by adding the red wine and use the wooden spoon to scrape up the flavorful brown bits on the bottom of the pan. 

  11. Add the canned tomatoes, beef broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and rehydrated mushrooms (including the soaking liquid) to the pot. Stir with the wooden spoon until evenly mixed.

  12. Add the pancetta and lamb shanks back to the pot; the shanks should be almost entirely submerged in the sauce liquid. Bring to a rapid boil and then cover.

  13. Transfer the Dutch oven to the preheated oven. Cook for 2 and 1/2 hours in the oven, removing each hour to turn the shanks over in the pot.

  14. After 2 and 1/2 hours, remove the Dutch oven and reset on top of the stove over low heat. 

  15. Using tongs, remove the shanks and shred the meat off the shank bones. Return the meat to the sauce and simmer until reduced to your desired thickness. Discard the bones.

  16. While the sauce is reducing, cook pappardelle pasta per the package directions (or another pasta of your choice).

  17. When the pasta is al dente, transfer pasta using tongs to the Dutch oven and toss into the ragu. Serve and garnish with additional fresh thyme and shaved Parmesan.