Ground Lamb Ragu Pasta features a richly flavored pasta sauce tossed with rigatoni. Excellent paired with a red wine blend from Dineen Vineyard’s, located in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Disclosure: The wine recommended here was provided as a complimentary sample by the winery.
Today we feature a delicious lamb ragu rigatoni recipe paired with an excellent wine from the Yakima Valley. This is one of our contributions for the Wine Pairing Weekend group’s exploration of the Washington state wine region. Thanks to Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles for hosting us!
I had a chance to talk with 2nd generation Dineen Vineyards owner, Marissa Dineen, while getting ready for this article. She gave me an overview of their wines. They all sounded great, but we wound up landing on their Heritage Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) as the focus for this article.
My first instinct when thinking about food to go with a Cabernet based blend is a meat centric dish, maybe something from the grill.
But while chatting with Marissa, she mentioned that this wine goes quite well with Italian dishes. She also mentioned herbal notes, which got my wheels turning…
What makes the recipe work
Based on the conversation with Marissa, I decided to make a ragu sauce with some ground lamb. We tend to associate lamb with spring, and we are on the cusp of the new season here in March.
Our lamb ragu sauce has the ground lamb simmering with beef broth, some fresh rosemary and a small amount of tomato. We also added some mushrooms, which add nice flavor and tend to enhance many wine pairings.
To top things off, we finished our lamb ragu pasta by stirring in some ricotta whipped with fresh basil. Some years ago, I made a lamb ragu that was finished with ricotta. I lost track of the recipe, but the idea of adding ricotta to a ragu sauce stayed with me!
The slow simmering meat sauce, tossed with rigatoni pasta, and finished with ricotta definitely make for a delicious meal!
Head down to the recipe card for the full instructions; here are some general tips on making this lamb ragu pasta recipe:
This recipe is flexible: Once you get the basic idea of how to make a ragu sauce, a recipe like this is quite flexible. You can mix in different herbs based on what’s on hand, skip the mushrooms, etc. You could certainly swap in other ground meat, too.
More simmering is a good thing: We indicate the ragu sauce should simmer for at least 20 minutes after adding the meat. That’s a minimum time, additional simmering deepens the flavors. 30 minutes or more is ideal.
Pasta shape options: We used rigatoni for this ground lamb ragu sauce, and would generally gravitate toward shorter shapes. However, lamb ragu pappardelle is popular on the web, and this long, thick noodle is another option you could use with this sauce.
Umami boost: Umami translates to “pleasant savory taste”, and you want to add this flavor element for ragu sauce deliciousness. The mushrooms we use contribute to the umami. Many Italians sauce use pancetta or other cured pork that help add flavor, but I was sharing this recipe with someone who doesn’t eat pork. So we added a bit of miso to the sauce instead –not a typical Italian ingredient, but it seemed to work! But you could be more traditional here and add a tablespoon or two of chopped pancetta early in the cooking, along with the onions.
Frequently asked questions
Ragu is an Italian meat sauce, which typically has beef broth along with meat and finely chopped onions and carrots. There is typically little if any tomato used in a ragu sauce.
You could definitely make this ragu sauce with other meats. I would say ground pork would be the closest to the lamb I used. You could also use ground beef, preferable one that is 80 to 85% lean so that there is enough fat content to add the desired flavor. You could also try ground turkey, in which case I might increase the mushroom quantity a bit.
A green salad and crusty bread are great companions for this recipe. And of course, a good red wine, which we cover in detail below.
The ricotta is a nice finishing touch, but you could achieve the rich creaminess in other ways. Adding a bit of heavy cream (try ½ cup) when finishing the dish instead of ricotta, or a similar amount of shredded parmesan.
If you like our recipe for ground lamb ragu pasta, you might also like these recipes:
- Mushroom and Short Rib Ragu
- Greek Lamb Stew
- Slow Cooker Irish Lamb Stew
- Ziti with Porcini Bolognese Sauce
As mentioned, this lamb ragu recipe was planned with an eye to pairing with a Dineen Vineyards wine.
Conferring with owner Marissa Dineen on our selection, we opened the 2015 Dineen Vineyards Heritage Red Wine ($35, 14.2 % ABV). The wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot.
I get red berries, nutmeg and spiced oak on the nose of the Heritage Blend. On the palate, black cherry fruit, vanilla, licorice and notes of cinnamon. Moderate, well-integrated tannins. Just enough acidity, enhancing the food friendliness of the wine.
An excellent red wine blend, well-balanced with layers of complexity. As anticipated, a great pairing for our lamb ragu rigatoni!
About Dineen Vineyards
Dineen Vineyards is a family-owned winery in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Founded by Pat and Lanie Dineen in 2001 with the purchase of an apple orchard that they converted to a vineyard, the winery produces a range of high quality wines that express the Yakima Valley terroir.
Dineen Vineyards wines are all made from estate grown fruit, something that isn’t very common in Washington. Growing all their own grapes definitely helps control the quality of the wines, and it shows in the glass.
The winery is certified sustainable, adhering to the Lodi Rules of Sustainability.
For more details on Dineen Vineyards, check out my IG TV chat with Marissa Dineen (navigate to about 5:30 to skip the preliminaries…Marissa joins us around that time!), and catch my full interview with her here. You can visit the Dineen Vineyards website for more information and to order wines.
Check out this article for more Yakima Valley wine pairings, too.Print
Lamb Ragu Pasta
Ground lamb simmers with broth, garlic, herbs, mushrooms and more for a richly flavored pasta sauce. Finished with ricotta whipped with fresh basil.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 45 mins
- Total Time: 55 mins
- Yield: 7 servings 1x
- Category: main
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: Italian
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 5 crimini mushrooms, sliced (or button mushrooms)
- ¼ cup red wine
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups low sodium beef broth
- pinch of salt
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp miso (optional)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 6 basil leaves, thinly sliced
- black pepper to taste
- 1 lb rigatoni or other short pasta
- Sauté onions: Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, sturdy pot. Add the onions, and sauté about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the carrots, and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add the lamb to the pot, using a heavy spoon to break it up and stir it in with the onions. Add the mushrooms, stir to combine.
- Stir in wine: add the wine to the pot, stirring to combine with the lamb. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes along with the broth, stirring to combine. Add the sprigs of rosemary, dried oregano. Stir, and bring the pot to a simmer, uncovered. Simmer for at least 20 minutes before starting to cook the pasta.
- Start cooking pasta: Begin boiling the water for pasta after the ragu sauce has simmered for at least 20 minutes after adding broth (an extra 10 or 15 minutes of simmering is great). Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Whip the ricotta: Place the 1 cup ricotta cheese in a bowl. Add the basil, remaining tablespoon of olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir vigorously to combine. Set aside.
- Finish the dish: When the pasta has cooked to your liking, drain, and toss immediately with the sauce. Stir in the ricotta cheese mixture. Plate the pasta, and enjoy with a good glass of red wine!
- The miso adds some additional umami flavor, but you don’t need to buy it just for this recipe. You could also use soy sauce.
Keywords: ground lamb ragu, lamb ragu pasta, lamb ragu with red wine
More Yakima Valley wine articles
Visit the articles below to see what my Wine Pairing Weekend friends are saying about Yakima Valley wines and food pairings. Many of these articles provide deeper background on the Yakima Valley AVA that we haven’t covered here, so be sure to check those out!
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla doubles up with Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair and Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision.
- Terri of Our Good Life shares two posts: Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines! and Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts.
- Payal at Keep The Peas declares Yakima Valley Wines FTW!
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm matches Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet.
- Rupal the Syrah Queen offers Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs.
- Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Martin with ENOFYLZ Wine Blog gives us A Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley.
- David at Cooking Chat has two posts for us also with Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards and Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings.
- Nicole of Somm’s Table shares Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare.
- Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines.
- Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew.
- Susannah at Avvinare pours Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley.
- Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles writes Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.
My husband went crazy when he saw this recipe. He loves lamb. I bet it shows up on our menu soon. The wine pairing sounds delicious. Nutmeg sounds so warm and cozy, just like a ragout.
Camilla M Mann
Love me some lamb. I also went the Mediterranean or Italian route with the Dineen wines. I can’t wait to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing, David.
Thanks Camilla! Look forward to checking out what you cooked up.
That sounds like an excellent pairing. Nothing better than a slow cooked Ragu…pure comfort food.
I so enjoyed your chat with Marissa on IG Live!
Your ragu sounds delicious but I don’t do lamb (baby animal thing). Can you suggest another protein that would be delicious in this dish?
I love the way you explain your recipes and all the options you provide for your readers. Like Robin, I don’t eat very much lamb and was wondering what I could substitute for it in your delicious recipe. Great read and I can tell that Marisa was a very appealing guest on your IG show.
Thanks Susannah! I would say ground pork would probably be the substitute that would be most similar. You could also do ground beef — I’d suggest 80 or 85% fat content as opposed to lean. You could even try dark ground turkey; add increase the mushrooms if going in that direction.
I love anything with lamb! This came out just perfect and flavorful! Love the pairing too 🙂
We love lamb and cook with it a lot, but I have never thought of using it with pasta! This recipe sounds delicious with red wine and mushrooms added too.
Thanks Kay! It is good with hearty pasta dish for sure.
I’ve never thought to make lamb ragu and the wine pairing sounds perfect. This is a great dish for Easter!
This pasta looks amazing! I am in love with the addition of mushrooms and the ricotta to give it a thick richness. Will be trying this very soon (already have a wine picked out LOL)
see, that why it is so beneficial to talk to the wineries themselves. Your conversation changed your whole thought process of a pairing. Now you have two directions to go in the future.
Love the idea of adding a little ricotta to the lamb sauce — yum! And of course the wine sounds fabulous too.
Linda Whipple, CSW
I like the way you remembered the ricotta from a previous recipe and finished the dish with it. Also, adding the mushrooms was a stroke of genius. These wines do have the acidity to handle tomato-based food. May go that way next time, too.
MARTIN D REDMOND
A great pairing David. Saving your lamb ragu recipe!
Thanks Martin, hope you enjoy!