Pasta with Lamb


I had a great idea for a post on comfort food, but that post will have to wait, as I seem to have misplaced a crucial bit of material evidence. (I assure you the above sentence will make sense just as soon as I make the aforementioned post.) In its place, I thought I’d report on the dinner I made this evening, which turned out to be pretty comforting (and one of those meals that seems to get better the more time I spend remembering it).

The recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s newish blog on the New York Times site, Bitten, which is turning out to be pretty much like having his Minimalist column a couple times a day. I went to the butcher in search of a small veal shank, but the only ones they had were the size of my whole arm, so I went for a small lamb shank instead. Any worries I had that using lamb would make the sauce too lamby were entirely misplaced. This is my idea of a perfect winter dish: warm, soft, and savory from the meaty sauce—but I made sure I didn’t add too much sauce to the pasta, as (if we’re talking about my idea of a perfect winter dish) the balance of enough just-perfectly-cooked pasta is necessary to make sure you don’t feel like you need to hibernate afterwards. I used these:


Called casarecce (we’re blessed with a stupendous Italian deli nearby), they added wonderful texture, but obviously use any cut pasta you can get your hands on.

One other thing: although I am currently mostly unemployed, and thus can more easily make this dish (you want the meat to cook in the sauce for at least an hour—I did two), I assure you it is easier and quicker than yr standard bolognese, and I actually think it might be better.

Pasta with Lamb

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small dried bird’s eye chilies, crushed
1 small lamb shank, about 1 pound
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 14-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes, with juice
1 glass red wine

1 pound ziti, penne or other cut pasta

1. Place the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lamb shank, and brown on all sides 10 minutes or more. When the meat is just about done, add the garlic, chilies salt and pepper. (If, like me, you have an awful electric stove, turn the heat down to below medium when you’re about halfway through browning the lamb or your garlic and chilies will cook way too fast and you’ll have to pull the pan off the heat and curse.)

2. When the garlic has softened a bit, add the tomatoes, with their juice, and the glass of wine. Turn the heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer. Partially cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and just about falling off the bone, at least 1 hour, the longer the better.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Cook the pasta until it is tender but firm. Remove the lamb shank, chop it coarsely, scoop out any marrow (mine didn’t have any) and return the meat to the sauce (discard the bone).

4. Drain and sauce the pasta; I used two ladle-fulls per person (we’ve got a small ladle).

Serves four.


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3 Responses to “Pasta with Lamb”

  1. Jaq Says:

    I’m making this tonight, only with gemelli.

  2. Jaq Says:

    And it was delicious – the house smelled mouth-watering for hours as it cooked. I added some purple basil leaves when I added the meat back into the sauce (have an overgrowth of them in the bathroom herb garden), but the lamb+garlic+chilis really carried the day.

  3. Jaq Says:

    I made this again yesterday, using a small veal chuck roast – so very good and so easy.

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