I’m still thinking about the delicious lamb shoulder ragu I made last weekend from the fabulous cookbook Wine Food, so I’m sharing the recipe with you here! A few days ago, I made a variation of this using pork cheeks and jowl in place of the lamb. I omitted the wine, used less tomato paste, added some Calabrian chile paste, took out the herbs and onion, threw a bunch of whole confit garlic cloves into the sauce instead of fresh garlic, used Banza shells (a chickpea-based gluten free pasta) instead of rigatoni, and skipped the ricotta. You can try out your own variations based on what you have on hand. Both this version and my pork version were delicious!
A lot of other exciting food things (and non-food things) have happened since last week’s post too. I think I mentioned my resolution to take myself out to lunch on Fridays, and Andrew and I have also resolved to go out for lunch or brunch once every weekend as well. Both of those happened successfully this week! On Friday, an unexpectedly balmy March day, I walked to the most beautiful book store, Augustine Books. It’s a French and English bookstore on the Upper East Side right next to Central Park, and I felt like I could have stayed all day, lounging on the perfectly cozy aged leather love seats or forest green velvet armchairs, reading about the regional food of France or paging through a thick volume on quirky Parisian apartment decor. Le sigh.
On my way back from the bookstore, I picked up the liang pi noodles (also known as “cold skin” noodles, though they are vegan and have nothing to do with actual skin!) at Xian Famous Foods to have as my “lunch out.” I had had the lamb hand-pulled noodles before, but this was my first vegetarian experience at the restaurant. Delicious and cheap (about $7 with tax)! I plan to go back and some of the other menu selections, but first I’ll start chipping away at some of the other places on my list. This has been a pretty delightful quest so far.
I had been reading all about the new Hudson Yards complex and its shopping, food court, cultural center, and giant sculpture. Friday was the grand opening, so Andrew and I went to see what it was all about. We didn’t think the shopping was anything to write home about, but I’d like to go back and try David Chang’s new fried chicken restaurant there, as well as the Greek wine bar Milos. We did also check out Mercado Little Spain, chef
José Andrés’s food court and market. Most of the restaurants in there weren’t yet open, but we enjoyed having a vermouth and watching other people find the best angle to photograph their churros and chocolate. I’m looking forward to going back once everything is open!
The most fun we had was in climbing up the Vessel, which is the giant honeycomb-looking stairway sculpture outside of the shopping area. There’s no real function to the thing, but it looks cool and we really enjoyed the view from the top!
On Sunday, Andrew and I decided to get a slice from the famous Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. I had been there once years ago and remembered that it was very good. We walked the 3.4 miles to get there and ended up waiting two hours (!!!) for our slices. I certainly don’t remember the wait being that long the last time I went there, but the pizza was just as good, so all’s well that ends well I guess. AND, with a little help from Andrew, I solved the NY Times Sunday crossword during our wait! One of his birthday gifts to me was a yearly subscription to the NY Times crossword app. WHAT AN AMAZING GIFT I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
After devouring our slices (we had gotten a little hangry at that point—very good thing we had had some of this pumpkin bread as a snack before starting out on our journey!), we walked back home, stopping for a little happy hour beer on the way. I made us some St. Patrick’s Day shepherd’s pie, which we also devoured, and we finished up an old movie we had started the day before. I can’t believe the weekend is over already! What were your food highlights?
Rigatoni with Lamb Shoulder Ragu & Whipped Ricotta
adapted from Wine Food
- 1 2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, untied, and cut in half lengthwise
- 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish (I used avocado oil for cooking and extra virgin olive oil for finishing)
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 lbs dried rigatoni pasta (we only used a pound of pasta for 6 servings and it was plenty, but we served lots of bread on the side. See how hungry you are feeling!)
- 1 tbsp minced rosemary
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
for the whipped ricotta
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Using 2 teaspoons of the salt, season the lamb on all sides. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat, add the lamb, and sear on all sides until browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer lamb to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste darkens and a crust begins to form, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, water, 1/4 cup oregano leaves, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt. Return the lamb to the pot and bring to a simmer. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Let the sauce braise until the lamb is very tender, about 2 hours. (It’s a good idea to stir every 20 minutes or so so the lamb doesn’t start sticking too much to the bottom of the pot.)
- Remove the lamb from the sauce and use two forks to shred it into bite-sized bits. Return the shredded lamb to the sauce, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Keep the sauce warm.
- Cook the rigatoni in a pot of salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water, and return the rigatoni to its pot.
- Add some of the pasta cooking water to the ragu to thin it a bit, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oregano, the rosemary, and the vinegar. Ladle a few scoops of the ragu into the pot with the pasta and stir to coat. Cook over medium high heat until the sauce begins to absorb into the pasta, about 2 minutes.
- Make the whipped ricotta: In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, milk, cheese, salt, and pepper until creamy, about 30 seconds.
- Serve the pasta with a big ladleful of ragu, a generous spoonful of the whipped ricotta, and a drizzle of olive oil. Pair with a barolo!