Rigatoni with Lamb Sauce

Rigatoni al Ragù di Agnello

A ragù is any sauce in which meat, vegetables, and usually tomatoes are simmered together for a long time. This one is reminiscent of Roman pan-roasted lamb with juniper berries to which some porcini mushrooms have been added. Its robust flavor makes it best suited to the substantial, toothy larger extruded flour and water pasta shapes such as rigatoni, but would also be very good with a wide egg noodle like pappardelle.

Total Time from Start to Finish: 3 hours


  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • cup carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or ½ tsp. dried rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • 12 ounces boneless lamb shoulder cut into ¼-inch chunks
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated


  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl with enough water to cover them for at least 20 minutes. Lift them out squeezing the excess water back into the bowl, rinse them under cold running water and coarsely chop them. Filter the water they soaked in through a paper towel and set aside.
  2. Put the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saucepan and place over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and Sauté until the vegetables have lightly browned. Add the rosemary and juniper berries and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the lamb and cook until the lamb has lost its raw color. Season with salt and pepper and add the white wine. Let the wine bubble until the alcohol has evaporated, then add the reconstituted porcini and their filtered water. Add the tomatoes, and once they have come to a boil reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered for a minimum of 2 hours. Stir approximately every 20 minutes and if all the liquid in the pan has evaporated and the sauce begins to stick, add a few tablespoons of water. When the sauce is done the lamb should be very tender. Remove from the heat and set aside. The sauce may be prepared ahead of time up to this point and refrigerated.
  4. Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, cover, and place over high heat. When the water boils, add 2 tablespoons salt and the rigatoni. Stir well and cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, reheat the sauce. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve at once.

Also good with: