LAMB RAGOUT CAPRESE

A neighbor raises lamb in Maine, and each spring I buy a whole lamb to support her small, back-to-basics farming business. It is easy to figure out what to do with the chops and the legs, but it took a bit of experimenting to figure out what to do with the less well known parts of the lamb. The shoulder just may be the tastiest and most versatile cut of the animal. Grinding the shoulder at home makes a delicious burger patty and the perfect base for this fun and impressive dish. If guests are unaccustomed to eating lamb, this preparation is certain to win them over. 

Nota bene: If round pasta medallions are difficult to find, cut circles out of fresh lasagna sheets with a biscuit cutter. Alternatively, cut squares 4 inch squares and make just 6 wider, taller stacks and serve one per person. 

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Ingredients

 LAMB RAGU

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon coriander

  • 1 teaspoon greek oregano

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 1/2 cup dry red wine

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 3/4 cup celery, finely chopped

  • 3/4 cup carrot, finely chopped

  • 3/4 cup onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cups chicken broth

  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

FRESH RICOTTA 

  • 12 ounces whole milk fresh ricotta

  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced

  • Olive oil

  • Kosher sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

FOR SERVING

  • 16 slices fresh buffalo mozzarella

  • 48 pasta medallions, cooked al dente

  • Parsley, minced

Directions

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes.

2. Add the ground lamb and cook until well browned. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered lamb fat.

3. Add the wine to the lamb and cook until the wine is nearly evaporated. 

4. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the cream, salt and pepper, and cook over medium low heat for 1 hour, or until the sauce is thickened and will hold together without running (test by putting a spoonful on a plate). Taste for seasoning.

5. Cook the pasta al dente, drain and set aside until ready to make caprese stacks.

6. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1 tablespoon of heavy cream, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and pecorino romano. 

7. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

8. On a half sheet baking pan, begin by placing a pea sized dollop of the ricotta mixture two inches apart to make 24 caprese stacks. 

9. On top of each dollop, place one pasta round. On top of pasta, place 1/2 tablespoon ragu and top with another pasta medallion.

10.  Top that medallion with 1/2 tablespoon ricotta mixture and the final pasta medallion.

11. Top the final pasta round with 1/2 tablespoon ragu and 1 slice of the bocconcini.

12. Repeat until all of the caprese stacks are complete. Place in the oven just before serving to melt the cheese, about one to two minutes. Watch carefully.

13. Remove from the oven and use a narrow metal spatula to place three or four stacks on each serving plate. Finish with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8