Cook the Book: Lamb Ragu with Artichokes, Oven-Rosted Tomatoes, and Basil

Cook the Book: Lamb Ragu with Artichokes, Oven-Rosted Tomatoes, and Basil

Among the many great recipes in Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita, this one for Lamb Ragu with Artichokes, Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, and Basil immediately struck me as something that I really wanted to eat. It might have something to do with the fact that I am a big fan of braising.

Inexpensive, fatty, and flavorful, lamb shoulder is a perfect candidate for braising. But the lamb isn't the only braised component in this recipe; artichokes are braised on their own with aromatics and white wine, and tomatoes are slow roasted with sugar and vinegar to concentrate their flavor. Three separately slow cooked elements are brought together to make this savory and hearty ragu. Serve it over polenta or pasta, or on its own with some crusty bread. This is another recipe that confirms my personal belief that you cannot go wrong with braising.

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  • Yield:6 to 8


  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Koshers salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1 inch thick
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced 1 inch thick
  • 1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
  • 3 dried porcini soaked in warm water until softened
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Braised Artichokes (recipe follows)
  • Oven-Roasted Tomatoes (recipe follows)
  • 2 mint sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 basil sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
  • Fruity extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large or 8 baby artichokes, trimmed
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 mint spring
  • 1 large thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 lemon slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 10 plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. 1.

    Preheat the oven to 310°F.

  2. 2.

    Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven, then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the meat, in batches so that you do not crowd the pot, and sear on all sides until well browned, about 8 minutes per batch. Remove to a rack.

  3. 3.

    Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven and heat until hot. Add the onions, carrots, leek, garlic, porcini, thyme, bay leaves, and fennel seeds and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, until onions begin to turn translucent. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce by half.

  4. 4.

    Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the lamb and place a round of parchment directly on top of it, then over the pot with the lid. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the lamb is tender.

  5. 5.

    When the meat is cooked, transfer to a plate. Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a pot, pressing the vegetables with a spoon to extract all of the flavorful juices. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half, skimming the fat. (Set the pan so that it is half on and half off the burner, and the fat will collect on the cooler side of the pan making it easier to skim.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.

  6. 6.

    Add the lamb, artichokes, and tomatoes to the sauce and reheat gently. Serve garnished with the chopped mint and basil and a splash of fruity olive oil.

  7. 7.

    Braised Artichokes

  8. 8.

    - serves 4 -

  9. 9.

    Put the artichokes in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add the celery, carrot, garlic, mint, thyme, bay leaf, wine, water, olive oil, lemon, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes for baby artichokes, 30 minutes for large artichoke bottoms. Drain and serve.

  10. 10.

    Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

  11. 11.

    - makes 20 tomato halves -

  12. 12.

    Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

  13. 13.

    Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and place them in a large bowl. Season with the olive oil, sugar, vinegar, and the salt and pepper to taste, then place cut side up on the baking sheet.

  14. 14.

    Roast for 2 hours, until the tomatoes are collapsed but not dried out and the flavor is slightly concentrated. Let cool, the refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to use.