The wide egg noodle is an overlooked and under-appreciated dinner delivery mechanism. Smooth, buttery (after you apply butter, of course,) and reminiscent of a hearty chicken soup on a cold winter night. They somehow dress a meal up and down simultaneously. You can tuck into a bowl on the sofa during the eleventh hour of your lazy-Sunday Netflix binge and up your comfort quotient exponentially. Or you can pair it with a simple roasted gravy and a glass of wine for a Thursday night dinner — maybe sprinkle some shredded basil over top — and feel more accomplished than you have in weeks.
Make that gravy out of lamb shanks and your kitchen cred gets an even bigger boost. Not because lamb is actually difficult with which to cook, but because most people don’t know any better. They haven’t tried. Case in point: this is a lazy day meal. Or, perhaps more appropriately: a I’ve-been-so-lazy-today-I-need-to-feel-better-about-myself meal. This is a meal I know anyone in our family can handle. From the adults down to the pre-teen. And it’s always satisfying. Which is why it was no mistake that our instagram followers saw me making it on the day we welcomed the first arctic cold front of the season to Michigan. It’s an instant pick-me-up.
A few notes: if you’re not sure if your red onion is large or if one or two carrots is just right, don’t worry about it. If you only have granulated or powdered garlic in the house, no big deal. Just add a few hefty shakes of it before the wine. This is a recipe that begs to be adjusted. It’s an art, not a science. Don’t actually measure a cup of wine unless you’re really really bad at estimates; just pour a few glugs straight from the bottle and bask in the glory of your cooking prowess. Use what you have, relax, drink a glass of that wine. You got this.
And speaking of what you’ve got: the ingredients list calls for a quart of tomatoes. That’s because I got quarts. I can them myself every summer. If you don’t can, that doesn’t mean you can’t make this meal. Substitute a couple cans of store-bought tomatoes for the quart. I’d probably use two of the 28 ounce type, and I’d pay a little extra for the good quality ones. But if you have a couple store brand or you can’t squeeze those extra dollars into the grocery budget this week, that’s fine too. Use what you have.
Finally, on the wine: I do believe you should only cook with wine you would drink. That said, if you’re a chardonnay fan, that’s not the wine for this meal. You want something moderately dry and red. With good deep flavor. I use a red blend, because there’s one in particular that is my favorite wine for drinking and so it’s what I keep on hand most often. But as long as it’s red and not too sweet, it’ll work.
Lamb Shank Ragu with Buttered Noodles
2-3 lbs of Lamb Shanks
Fine Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
2-3 TBSP Olive Oil
1 large red onion, finely diced
2-3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, grated
3-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Approx. 1 cup red wine
1 quart tomatoes in juice 6 oz tomato paste
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 package wide egg noodles
1 pat butter
water for boiling
salt, to taste
In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until it crackles. Rub each shank with a pinch of salt and pepper and sear on each side. Set shanks aside.
Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic to the residual oil and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions and celery begin to go translucent and the garlic starts turning golden at the edges. Add the wine, stir through.
Add tomatoes, with their juice, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Mix well and add the shanks back to the pot. Cover and set in a 350˚ oven for about three hours. The roasting is through when the lamb falls easily from the bone when teased with a fork.
Using two forks, remove the lamb from the bones, shred the meat and stir into the sauce. Discard bones, or set aside for another use.
Boil wide egg noodles according to package directions. Drain, toss with a pat of butter.
Serve ragú over a bed of buttered noodles. Top with shredded basil or a freshly grated hard Italian cheese such as parmesan or pecorino.