Bucatini with Lamb Ragù
“This is one of the most popular dishes and perfectly embodies the soulful Italian cuisine that’s helped make us a West Village gem for 10 years.” —Joe Vigorito
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 pounds lamb neck
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- One 14.5-ounce can crushed or whole Italian tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme, stems removed
- 4 sprigs oregano, stems removed and divided
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- Zest of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound bucatini or any thick, long pasta
- Kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil, for finishing
- Flaky sea salt, for finishing
In a spice grinder, grind the peppercorns, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. In a small bowl, mix ground spices and salt until combined. Place lamb neck on a rimmed baking sheet and rub the salt mixture all over . Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cure the meat for 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the meat, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the lamb in a single layer. Sear the lamb on each side until a golden brown crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and sauté the carrots, celery, fennel, and onions in the remaining fat, until tender 8 10 minutes. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and mix until all of the vegetables are well coated.
Pour in the canned tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, squeeze them with your hands to break them apart before adding them in. Add bay leaf, thyme, and half of the oregano; stir until incorporated. Add back the seared lamb to the pan including any juices that have accumulated. Reduce the heat and cover; simmer until the meat is tender and falls off the bone, about 4 hours.
While the meat is braising, in a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, lemon zest, olive oil, and salt. Whip until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to over whip the cheese. Transfer to a bowl and chill until ready to serve.
In a small saucepan over low heat, sauté the slivered garlic, remaining oregano (finely chopped), and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic mixture to the ragù or use as a topping to the pasta for serving.
Once the meat is tender and easily pulls off the bone, remove the bay leaf and the lamb necks from the sauce. When cool enough to handle, carefully pick the meat and discard the bones. Return the meat back to the sauce, cover, and let simmer until warmed through.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil and season with 2 tablespoons salt.
Cook the pasta according to the al dente package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain pasta.
Add pasta to the Dutch oven, tossing to coat well with the sauce. If the mixture is a bit dry, add some of the reserved cooking water. Add the whipped ricotta and mix gently until combined.
Plate the pasta with extra lamb ragù served on top, a drizzle of olive oil (or the garlic oil), and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.
Recipe photo and styling by Judy Kim.