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Braised Lamb Ragu
The Washington Post Wine Club Braised Lamb Ragu

Braised Lamb Ragu

Main Course
Enzo Fargione, chef and proprietor of Osteria Elisir, developed this recipe after accidentally overcooking a leg of lamb one afternoon. Not wanting to waste the pricy ingredient, Fargione borrowed a technique from Sichuan chefs and double-cooked the lamb, transforming it into a rich ragu with the addition of guanciale. The chef prefers to pair the sauce with a ricotta-tomato gnocchi. This version leaves the options wide open; because the ragu is so deep and complex, it will pair with almost any pasta. You’ll need kitchen twine. Add salt sparingly during the braising process; the guanciale will add a significant amount on its own.
Wine Pairing
Wine Pairing
For the lamb:
One 2 1/2- to 3-pound boneless leg of lamb
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
4 whole cloves garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, cut in half

For the ragu:
8 ounces guanciale (see headnote)
3 cloves garlic, minced, about 1/2 tablespoon
About 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 1/2 large white onions, thinly sliced
2 cups dry red wine
4 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground white pepper
8 basil leaves, chopped, for garnish (optional)
For the lamb: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Use the kitchen twine to tie/secure the lamb into an oblong cylinder, then season all over with the salt and pepper. Use a paring knife to make four deep incisions in the meat, then stuff a garlic clove and a folded sprig of rosemary into each one.

Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the lamb and sear until browned on all sides. Add the onion halves, cut sides down. Transfer to the oven; roast for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature of the meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Rest and cool the lamb, reserving the meat drippings and onion halves in a container. Wrap the lamb tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For the ragu: Discard the rosemary sprigs and garlic in the lamb. Use a sharp knife to thinly slice the roasted lamb and the guanciale, then cut the slices into short strips.

Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels.

Place the guanciale in a large stockpot or pan over medium heat. Cook until the pieces have crisped and their fat has rendered. Transfer the pieces to the plate to drain; reserve 1 tablespoon of the rendered guanciale fat for this dish. Wipe out the bottom of the pot. Reserve or discard the remaining fat.

Return the tablespoon of fat to the pot over medium heat. Once it’s heated, add the garlic, rosemary and onion slices, stirring to coat. Increase the heat to high; add the roasted, sliced lamb and cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the meat begins to stick to the pot.

Add the crisped guanciale and the red wine; reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, until the wine has reduced by half, then stir in the broth, the reserved lamb drippings and cooked onion halves.

Add the salt; cover and braise for 60 to 75 minutes, stirring occasionally. The meat is done when it falls apart at the touch of a spoon. By the time it’s finished, it should have a shredded consistency and not much liquid. The onions will be soft enough to break down. Remove from the heat.

Season with the pepper to taste; add salt if needed. The ragu is ready to be served over pasta or gnocchi. Garnish with basil, if desired. Or cool, cover and refrigerate the ragu for up to 3 days.

MAKE AHEAD: The roasted lamb needs to be refrigerated overnight. The ragu can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Adapted from a recipe in "Visual Eats: A Behind the Scenes Look at Modern Italian Cooking," by Enzo Fargione (Keith Publications, fall 2013).
Tested by Tim Carman for The Washington Post.

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