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Loaded with tender and juicy slow-cooked meat, this Smoked Lamb Ragù Bianco will quickly become a family favourite. It’s hearty, comforting and indulgent, but also surprisingly light and made with very simple ingredients. Toss the ragù with your favourite pasta or serve it over a bed of creamy polenta.
Ingredients You Need for this Smoked Lamb Ragù Biano
- Lamb: I used boneless leg of lamb because that’s what was available. For more flavour, you can substitute bone-in leg of lamb or bone-in lamb shoulder. Cooking with meat on the bone tends to take a bit longer but the end result is well worth the wait. To speed up the process, cut the lamb into large chunks before searing them in the pan.
- Mirepoix: A combination of celery, carrot and onion form the flavourful base for this smoked lamb ragù. I like to cut the vegetables into small pieces so that they almost melt into the sauce.
- Garlic: As always, measure this ingredient with your heart and don’t let anyone tell you there’s such a thing as too much!
- Fennel Seed: Just a small amount will add an incredible depth of flavour.
- Chili Flakes: Here again, a tiny amount of chili flakes will help cut through the richness of the fatty lamb and add a little tickle on the tongue with every bite.
- White Wine: This is optional, but adding 1 cup of dry white wine will add some acidity and fruitiness to the ragù that will help balance the richness of the lamb. If you don’t want to add wine, simply substitute with more broth.
- Beef Bone Broth: For more depth of flavour and added nutrients, use a good-quality beef bone broth. Bone broth has collagen which will help the ragù to thicken and gelatinize a little.
- Fresh Woodsy Herbs: I use a combination of rosemary, thyme and bay leaves to help flavour the lamb and broth. Rather than chop the herbs, I tie them together with some butcher’s twine to make a bouquet garni. Before serving, I can easily remove the stems and leaves.
- Pecorino Romano: One of the secrets to this dish is to toss the ragù with the pasta, some of the cooking water and some freshly-grated pecorino Romano just before serving. Not only does the cheese add an incredible flavour, but it also helps the starchy pasta water to emulsify and cling to the pasta.
Of course, if you want to keep this recipe dairy-free, simply omit the cheese.
How to Make the Ragù
- Trim excess fat from the lamb, massage it with olive oil and generously season all over with salt and pepper.
- Smoke the lamb on your Traeger for 2 hours at 225F. If you have Super Smoke, switch it to on.
- Sear the lamb in a heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven.
- Sauté the mirepoix and garlic until barely tender.
- Bloom the fennel seed and chili flakes in the hot oil to help release their essential oils and aromas.
- Deglaze with white wine and let it reduce to cook out the alcohol.
- Add the broth and fresh herbs.
- Return the ragù to the Traeger and slowly cook it at 350F for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the meat can be easily shred with a fork.
- Stir in some fresh baby spinach for a pop of colour and texture.
- Boil the pasta in a separate pot of salted water.
- Toss the pasta with the ragù, some of the pasta water and some freshly-grated pecorino Romano cheese.
- Ladle the Smoked Lamb Ragù into individual serving bowls, drizzle with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and garnish with some more pecorino.
Choosing the Ideal Pasta Shape
Because this smoked lamb ragù has a very loose and brothy sauce with plenty of hearty meat it’s important to consider what kind of pasta shape you’ll be enjoying it with. For example, something like a regular spaghetti is not ideal because it doesn’t have much texture or shape for the sauce to adhere to.
My favourite pasta shapes for this ragù are:
- These wide, flat ribbons of egg pasta are perfect for capturing and holding the hearty lamb ragù because they tend to be a bit stickier than other dry pastas made from wheat and water. Therefore, the surface area allows the sauce to cling to the pasta, ensuring each bite is flavourful.
- Similar to pappardelle, tagliatelle is a broad ribbon egg pasta that works well with thick, meaty sauces like lamb ragù. Its flat surface and substantial width provide a great canvas for the sauce to coat.
- Rigatoni’s ridges and large tube-like shape make it an ideal choice for hearty meat sauces. The ridges help trap the sauce, creating a flavorful and satisfying bite.
- Penne Rigate:
- Penne rigate is a versatile pasta shape with ridges that can hold chunky sauces. Although the tubes are narrower than rigatoni, it still traps some of the ragù.
- Orecchiette, meaning “little ears” in Italian, has a unique shape that can cradle the lamb ragù. The cup-like structure captures the sauce, making it a delightful choice for this type of dish.
- Cavatappi’s spiral shape and ridges make it suitable for clinging onto the rich sauce. The nooks and crannies of this pasta shape ensure a satisfying and flavourful experience.
- Garganelli is a tubular pasta with ridges and a rolled shape, making it an interesting choice for lamb ragù. The texture of the pasta complements the robust flavours of the sauce.
Smoked Lamb Ragù Bianco
- 2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, substitute bone-in for more flavour
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
- 3 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
- 1 cup white wine, optional
- 2 cups beef bone broth
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 ounces baby spinach
- Freshly-grated pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta, substitute pappardelle or your favourite pasta shape
- Preheat Traeger Grill to 225F. If you have Super Smoke, switch it on.
- Drizzle the lamb with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and massage to coat. Generously season all sides of the lamb with salt and pepper and transfer it to the top rack of your Traeger. Smoke the lamb for 2 hours or until a red colour develops on the exterior of the meat.
- Preheat a Dutch oven over medium heat for 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully add the lamb and cook, undisturbed, until browned, around 4 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, around 4 more minutes. Transfer the lamb to a bowl and set aside. If using cubed lamb meat, brown all sides, around 12 minutes total.
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pot. Add the carrots, celery and onion and season with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring and lifting any brown bits off the bottom of the pot, until the vegetables are just tender, around 6 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, and chile flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, around 1 minute. Deglaze the pot with the white wine and cook, stirring, until the alcohol has reduced by at least ¼ in volume.
- Return the lamb to the pot and add enough beef broth to just barely cover the meat. If using a large piece of lamb with the fat cap on, make sure the fat cap is facing up. Tie the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves together with butcher’s twine and add it to the pot. Bring the liquid to a steady simmer, cover with a lid and return the pot to the Traeger.
- Raise the heat to 350F and cook, stirring occasionally and basting the lamb to prevent burning, until the thickest part of the meat easily pulls apart with a fork. Discard the bundle of herbs. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, around 3 minutes. Taste the ragù for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and chili flakes as desired. Keep in mind that if tossing the ragù with pasta, the pasta water will also be salted.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with 1.5 tablespoons of salt and add the pasta. Cook the pasta until al-dente, around 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta, pasta water and ¼ cup of grated pecorino to the lamb ragù. Cook, tossing everything to coat, until the pasta is cooked to your desired doneness, around 2 minutes. Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and top with more grated pecorino. Serve immediately.