While Week 11 was all about pasta, really, this meal could do without.
Just ask Wifey Nadia and our guests Jamil and Justine, who, after having a bowl of Week 11, Meal 3: Orecchiette with lamb ragu and ricotta cheese, all grabbed seconds to spoon-gorge on the clove-and-mint spiked, lamb-packed sauce.
The Recipe (Yield: 2 servings)
2 serving sizes of orecchiette pasta (you can use rigatoni as an alternative)
1 T olive oil
1 large shallot, small diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. ground lamb
1 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1/2–15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
2 t fennel seed, toasted and ground
1 t whole clove, toasted and ground
1+ T fresh mint
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a pan to medium-high heat and toast 2 t of fennel seed and 1 t of clove. Give it between 30 seconds and 1 minute — you’ll know it’s good when the spices turn slightly brown and the aroma is strong.
Grind the spices into a fine powder.
Dice 1 shallot into small pieces and mince 1 clove of garlic.
Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook 1 minute.
Add 1 lb. of ground lamb, ground spices and 1 T of tomato paste.
Break lamb into little pieces — it’s easier to do with lamb than ground beef I learned — and stir to incorporate tomato paste.
When tomato paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, deglaze with 1 cup of red wine. Cook until red wine is nearly evaporated.
Add 1/2 of 15 oz. can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Season sauce with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
While simmering sauce, cook your pasta. Bring to a boil enough water to cook 2 serving sizes of orecchiette pasta. Cook according to package directions.
Right before the sauce is done, add 1 T of mint, chopped, to the sauce and scoop out 2 T of ricotta (1/4 cup for two people) for every portion of the dish you make.
Drop the ricotta on top and sprinkle with some fresh mint before you dig in.
I really liked how the cheese added a bit of creaminess to the dish, but really, the star is the sauce. Mint and lamb are always good together, and the deep sweetness of tomato paste and strong flavor of clove goes a long way to making this one of the most unique plates of pasta I’ve been lucky enough to devour.