~ Wild horses, lamb and sheep often traverse the verdant mountain passes of Abruzzo ~

Simple. Fast. Absolutely delicious.

It’s not always easy to pull off, but today’s article is highlighting a new recipe reflective of the “Cucina Povera” that is ubiquitous across much of Italy.   In fact,  I’ve enjoyed dishes comparable to the recipe below in Tuscany, Abruzzo and Umbria.  All similar, none identical.  You use what you’ve got on hand and you create a fresh, satisfying meal.  This version relies on grass fed, ground lamb.

Orecchiete al Ragu di Agnello

1 pound Orecchiete pasta
1 pound ground lamb
16 ounces basic tomato sauce (see below)
1 package fresh Arugula
1/2 sweet vidalia onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Splash dry white wine

To make this dish, you do need about 1 jar of basic tomato sauce.  I used my homemade marinara which is nothing more than cooked San Marzano tomatoes with onion, garlic, salt, pepper and basil.  If you don’t have homemade, buy the brand that has the least number of ingredients.

Start by browning the lamb in a pan large enough to hold the finished dish.  Once the lamb is browned, remove to a plate.  Add the onions and garlic and saute over medium until softened, about 5 minutes.  Use a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and then return the lamb to the pan.  Add the tomatoes and lower the flame to simmer.  The longer you can allow this to simmer, the better it will taste.  On a weeknight, 45 minutes to an hour is a minimum.  On a weekend, it’s great to let it go for 1-2 hours.

~ This is the ragu just before serving. The only real difference here is that I’ve already added the Arugula ~

Once the ragu is ready, add the arugula and stir through until it wilts.  This will take only a few minutes.  Cook the orecchiette until al dente, drain to the pan, toss and serve.   Garnish with chopped rosemary and pass pecorino cheese.   This is a delicious pasta that will pair well with almost any wine you choose.  We used it as a foil to assess Leonardo Manetti’s wonderful Chianti Classico and the combination was great.

~ The versatility of this dish is also what makes it so great. You could easily substitute baby spinach, kale or even chopped escarole for the Arugula. Similarly, you could swap the lamb for beef, pork or any combination of the three ~


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